How to Enhance Your Career in Global Apparel Supply Chain (for Apparel Merchandisers)?

Enhancing career in apparel merchandising

To enhance your career in the global supply chain you need to learn the following things. 

The fashion industry is huge and continues to grow rapidly – according to current growth projections, it will double in the next 10 years, generating up to US$5 trillion annually. Only a few more industries can look forward to such levels of growth. In this context, I have shared a few tips for apparel merchandisers to enhance their careers in the global apparel supply chain.

It’s not just big in terms of revenue – it also employs directly and indirectly over 200 million people around the world. In the US, 4 million people work in the fashion industry ( That’s more than other major sectors, including the auto, fast-food, and video-game industries.

In the 20th century apparel manufacturing become a global industry. Many developing countries adopted the industry as it could provide employment to a large number of people. Apparel quota systems introduced by the USA and the European Union, multi-fiber agreement in 1974, and World Trade Organization had a major role in establishing the apparel industry as a global trade.

There were many advantages that came to the countries who took the initiatives to establish apparel manufacturing plants. Foreign direct investments (FDI), technology, and job opportunities for the local population are among the main advantages. With the employment there came the opportunity to learn new management skills and the ability to enhance the knowledge about the global business environment.

Today, it is possible for anyone with the right skill set and the right attitude to work anywhere in the supply chain. Many buyers and manufacturers are working hand in hand to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of the supply chain giving many employees the opportunity to work in many areas within the supply chain.

Tips for apparel merchandisers 

#1. You are a marketer. So, perform like a marketer.

Apparel Merchandisers are at the forefront of this trend. They have a much better opportunity to place themselves in anywhere in the supply chain. 

In most manufacturing companies, merchandisers double their role as marketers too. They engage with buyers. Propose styles. Work on development samples. Further, they have the first-hand access to all fabric and raw material suppliers giving them the opportunity to work with buyers and suppliers.

#2. Understand the opportunity in front of you

It is important to understand this unique opportunity and capitalize on it. As a merchandiser, you have the opportunity to interact with your buyers more than any other department. Use this opportunity wisely. Try to understand the buyers’ expectations and thinking patterns. Instead of pushing your agenda, try to understand what your buyers’ concerns are and try to address them.

While this will help to improve your reputation with the buyers, most importantly it will help to understand the buying side of the business such as buyers KPI’s, areas of concerns, how the wholesale and retail side of the business operates. This is a piece of essential knowledge to move up or laterally in the supply chain.

#4. Expand your learning in factory processes

Another hurdle in the current merchandising department is that it is segmented into many areas. In the past, merchandisers were responsible for marketing, organizing samples for buyer meetings, getting development samples made and placing & following up bulk production.

However, now this is divided into many areas and use multiple merchandizers. Though, this is better for the companies, in long-term this will hinder the opportunity for the merchandisers. They have limited knowledge of how the total process work. It is essential to have an overall in-depth understanding when you’re focusing on a position in the global apparel industry.

#5. Gain knowledge of fabrics and raw materials

Another important area to focus on is, taking a closer interest in the work you do. Having a good understanding of different fabric types, how to tell them apart, compositions, how to read a test report, various fabric treatments such as easy care, wrinkle-free and so on.

The point is, you should be in a position to have an informed conversation with people who are coming from various disciplines and knowledge levels. Since you working and competing with people from around the world, being on top of things certainly help to stay relevant.

More articles from this author:
Business development tips for apparel manufacturers
5 Tips on conducting buyer meeting
How to find new apparel buyers and retain them?

Charm Rammandala

Dr. Charm Rammandala currently works as the Sustainable Program Manager at Apple Inc. USA. He has over 20 years of international management experience and previously contributed his expertise at Tesla, George Sourcing, and Vomax LLC.

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