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What is fashion merchandising? A guide for retailers

October 27, 2023 | Published by Faire

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Fashion merchandising inside an independent retail store

There’s something exciting about shopping for new clothes, reimagining your wardrobe, and walking out of a store feeling like a million bucks. Sometimes, when you see just the right cozy wool sweater or twirly dress in a shop window, you feel like they’re actually calling your name. 

You may know how to merchandise products in your store already, but if you’re planning to sell clothing, there are some extra things to consider to really make your items pop. But, exactly what is fashion merchandising? It’s the art and science of buying, displaying, and visually promoting fashion merchandise, and it depends heavily on product placement, pricing, quantity, and timing. All of this adds up to that magical feeling of finding just the right thing.  

It’s important to note that fashion merchandising and marketing are different things, though both are equally important. Fashion marketing is more focused on advertising and promotions rather than planning, purchasing, and placement. 

Sound like a lot to take in? The following steps will help you home in on a strategy, and soon you’ll be merchandising in style. 

1. Collect inspiration

As we touched upon in this recent article on visual merchandising, it’s important to curate an aesthetic around your best products. Many retailers are influenced by other brands, so it’s a good idea to start by seeking inspiration from them.

For instance, if you specialize in athletic footwear, you might keep your eye on brands like Adidas, New Balance, and Nike. Successful competitors and established retailers can provide great inspiration when designing or rethinking your store layout, in-store and window displays, website design, and overall online presence. Use what you like, leave what you don’t like, and adjust according to what makes sense for your business.     

Social media and image-sharing platforms like Pinterest and Instagram are also great sources for insights into fashion trends and visual inspiration so you can plan your buying and displaying more effectively. For instance, if you specialize in women’s apparel, you might follow fashionable Pinterest users who create seasonal clothing boards.  

2. Get strategic 

Once you have some inspiration and ideas about where to go, it’s time to get serious about your fashion merchandising strategy. Luckily, there are more helpful resources for data and analytics than ever before. Keep these tips in mind while you plan: 

Do some target audience research

When you imagine your average shopper, think about who they are. Ask yourself questions like, where else do they shop, how do they spend their time, what are their interests and aesthetics, who do they follow on social media, and what spaces do they try to avoid? Get specific about your target audience so your shop projects a clear point of view. 

Stay on top of fashion trends

Always think beyond the current season and try to be agile when new trends appear on the horizon. If you’re not already, start following your favorite fashion industry influencers on Instagram to better understand what’s next in the fashion world. Once you know your target audience, you should also have a clearer idea of the new products your dream customers will love. 

Determine the best schedule to refresh displays

It’s important to refresh your visual merchandising according to seasons, holidays, and special events. This applies to your online presence—including seasonal collections—as well as window displays, checkout displays, interactive displays, and more. With a data-informed strategy, you can keep customers coming back to see what’s new without changing out displays every other day.   

Forecast your inventory needs

Base your inventory strategy on digital and in-store sales figures, including sales data from your product tags. It’s smart to balance your more seasonal inventory with merchandise that will stay relevant for a few seasons. For example, some kids’ apparel is best for the back-to-school months, but other items will continue to sell throughout the fall season.

Try out price promotions

Price point matters more than ever, making promotional discounts a very appealing proposition for most customers. Just make sure to keep an eye on the costs of potential returns and remember that too-frequent discounts may affect your brand image. Some discounts are well-suited for all brands, like Black Friday deals or discounts for Faire markets.    

3. Tell your story

Before making any visual merchandising moves, ask yourself a few questions to ensure a consistent visual story. For starters, how can you best present the clothing in your store to appeal to your target audience? Also, what aesthetic or aspirational lifestyle can you evoke with your displays and online presence? Here are a few ideas to try:

Have mannequins and salespeople wear the clothing you sell

Mannequins are fairly standard tools for fashion merchandising, but have you considered the impact of real live humans walking around your store wearing your merchandise? When salespeople are wearing the clothes you sell, it adds credibility to their selling techniques and provides a close-up example of your clothing in action. There are also new approaches you can take with mannequins, including more realistic mannequins that mimic a human model and a wider variety of mannequins for men’s apparel than were once available.  

Pair accessories with clothing items to inspire outfit choices

For instance, you might display baby apparel close to accessories like hats, headbands, mittens, socks, and booties. Or put together a seasonal woman’s look by pairing a dress with a purse, shoes, jewelry, and a coat or light jacket from your current collection. Refreshing these pieces is one of the easiest ways to refresh your visual merchandising scheme.  

Create eye-catching window displays to pull in customers

Your window displays make a first impression on new customers and remind previous customers what they love about your brand. They can also inform passersby about special sales, discounts, and events. Consider color choice, lighting, and the kind of visual identity you’re trying to portray. It’s important to create a consistent story across visual mediums, including your window displays, but this is also a place to experiment and have fun. 

With this inspiration in mind, it’s a great time to shop for new fashion merchandise on Faire that will help you create a more compelling visual story in your shop and online. 

New to Faire? Sign up to shop, or apply to sell.

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