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Job Description of a Merchandise Planner

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A merchandise planner works for a retail store tracking inventory and bringing in new products based on predicted needs for customers. They're a liaison between the customer and the marketing and buying department, ensuring what the customer wants is available. Their responsibilities can include research, sales tracking, employee training, buying and maintaining the visual aesthetic of the store.

Education and Career Path

Many merchandise planners have a bachelor's degree in design, business or marketing. In these programs, merchandisers develop the skills to track sales, create sales goals, research new product lines and learn how to maintain a consistent brand image. Fortunately, many of the largest retail chains have clear career paths for how to move into the position of merchandise planner. Also, retail chains such as Dillard's and Best Buy often attend university career fairs to meet soon-to-be graduates and explain career choices in the company.

Day to Day

A merchandise planner's main duty is to track how existing product lines are selling and decide the next steps, such as drop a line or expand it. This involves creating detailed analysis of sales records and customer service reports to consider if there are internal factors that could be causing poor sales performance, such as lack of employee knowledge or too high price points. A merchandise planner works with sales managers and marketing to repair missteps and reach the store's goals.

Work Environment

Merchandising planners often work typical 9 to 5 hours at a desk looking at sales reports and considering new lines. In small stores, this position may include visual merchandising, which is resetting and organizing the physical store for the best possible product display. This is a fast-paced position that could have your performance evaluated on short-term actions, such as lowering a price or promoting a sale. You must be able to react quickly and communicate your goals clearly.

Salary and Location

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, buyers and purchasing agents made an annual mean income of $60,700 in 2016. This can vary depending on the size of your retail store and its industry. These positions are often located in major cities such as New York, where the highest number of consumers purchase, or can be at retail chain headquarters located anywhere in the country.


Grace Bordelon is a public relations professional, teacher and writer. She owns her own boutique public relations firm that specializes in the advertising, gaming and software industries. She also teaches at a major design school for fine artists, commercial artists and graphic designers. Bordelon holds a B.A. in international economics and an M.A. in English from Bard College.

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Piyapong Thongcharoen/iStock/GettyImages