Merchandising in International Retailing - An Introduction

International Retailing is going places. With globalization and with E Commerce, the horizon of opportunities has expanded significantly. Efficiency and the profitable operations of International Retailing both in terms of fashion as well as grocery retailing is dependant largely upon the Buying or Merchandising function. As the industry has progressed and evolved, the key role and function of merchandisers has assumed importance as the key drivers to the business.

The role of a Merchandiser in International Retailing is quite different from an ordinary procurement function in any other business organisation. The Profile, products and profits of the Company is dependent upon the merchandiser’s ability to procure right items at the right cost and make them available at the right time at the right place. Let us look at some of the key functions and skills that go into making of a good and effective merchandiser.

One of the key attributes that the Merchandiser needs to have is the ability to understand the markets, be keyed into the trends and have a finger on the pulse of the customers.

The ability to anticipate the Customer requirements and to develop and make available new products to meet customer expectation makes the mark of a professional buying expert.

It is important to remember that the competition in International Retailing is very stiff. The differentiation in terms of product range, design, quality and pricing make the International Retailers stand apart from competitors. All these factors form a major aspect of the job responsibility of Merchandizing team in the Company.

The main function of a Merchandiser is to develop Supplier relationships and procure merchandise from across the globe. The ability to source, indentify new suppliers, evaluating them and developing committed as well as able Supplier network is of primary importance. The Merchandisers are always under pressure to identify new sources and new markets to build supply sources at cheaper costs. Sound knowledge of international commerce, Current trends in procurement as well as International supply chain coupled with excellent negotiations skills are the needs of a present day Buyer. Knowledge of Supply chain innovations and strategies helps merchandisers reduce their costs and make significant contribution to the bottom lines.

An experienced and smart Merchandiser or a buying group contributes not only in terms of buying the required merchandise, but is able to innovate and build new product lines as well as brands for the Company. To be able to build successful brands, the Merchandisers need to have in depth understanding of the industry trends and be able to estimate Customer needs. Today own brand building is aggressively being pursued by International Retailers, making the job of Merchandisers that much more challenging in development of branded products. While procuring products for own brand, the responsibility and the power shifts from Manufacturer to the Retailer. In such a situation ensuring the right supplier network, quality, right product, right price and control over the Supply chain becomes the direct responsibility of the Merchandiser.

Merchandisers no longer look at buying as a function. In current scenario, merchandizing has become a strategy that the International Retailers use to gain competitive edge. Innovation is the hallmark of merchandizing. Pressure on bottom line and Customer expectations push the Merchandisers to think and work with ‘Out of the Box’ methods. Next time you go shopping for Coffee pods, you may be surprised to see the variety of flavours on the shelf. What is more surprising is that the coffee beans have been imported from one country, brewed and flavoured in another and perhaps packed locally to bring fresh stocks to the shelves. Merchandisers are no longer buying the finished product but are coming up with new and innovative ways to provide variety and quality to the Customers by having control over raw material procurement, manufacturing as well as packing and branding too.

Merchandisers role is not limited to procurement function and development of product lines alone. They are actively involved and have a major say in the marketing functions especially with Store Display, Product promotions and Pricing decisions too.

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