Challenges in Fashion Merchandising Job in a Buying House

This article is written by Sanjib Kumar Dey.

Fashion Merchandising

In the fashion supply chain, a buying house is an intermediate between the brands and fashion manufacturers. They take care of sourcing textile and clothing products for international brands. In a buying house, merchandisers handle all the communications between their vendors and buyers. That said above, the fashion world is always fast-moving in nature, and hence most of the challenges are related to getting the finished products into the store as fast as possible. 

In this article, I have highlighted a few challenges that most buying house merchandisers face in export order processing.  

Here are the top 4 challenges.
  • Shorter lead time for production
  • Wider job responsibilities
  • Round-the-clock order follow-up
  • Acceptable MOQ

1. Shorter lead time for production - convincing vendors for lower lead time:

Lead time for executing production orders is shrinking. Normally, buyers do not give a comfortable lead time to their suppliers for making orders and shipping them within a longer time frame. In order executions, many critical processes have certain limitations within itself. Thus the shorter lead time is one of the top challenges for buying houses for sourcing orders.

With a shorter lead time, I had to deal with my vendors and had to convince them to accept orders and commit to on-time shipment.

Secondly, all the vendors can’t do all the required processes in-house. They need to source raw materials. They need to work with their vendors to get some activities done outside of their production facilities.

It is not only me, many experts pointed out that shorter lead time is one of the top challenges for export manufacturers. With the advent of new technology for many processes and sourcing, lead time is always a challenging area.

2. Wider job responsibilities

When working in a buying house, it is not like only passing communication and comments between vendor merchants and the buyer. That kind of follow-up we need to do every day for communication purposes only.

Merchants need to be proactive with vendors' work. They need to keep track of all the activities even some of the tasks to be performed by the vendors. Further merchants need to check the vendor’s supplier's processes.

Buying house merchants need to take responsibility for suppliers' work like it is their own. To name a few - taking responsibilities lab-dip approval, strike-off approval, etc on your own because of lesser lead time.

3. Follow up on the progress of the order

Order follow-up with vendors and internal teams is not limited to office hours. I need to call and check with vendors or receive calls from vendors whether I am in the office or not. The goal is to meet the committed shipment date to the buyer.

One needs to be on top of every process as chances of delaying shipment are much higher when there is a short lead time. It has been observed that the person handling the order at the vendor end is not aware of the buyer's requirements in terms of garment testing and fabric testing. Explaining all sorts of things is time-consuming. Sometimes they remain busy with other orders from other buyers. They will be forgetting things and deadlines for various tasks to execute them. So, need to remind vendors by text messaging, by calling, and by email. 

4. Acceptable order quantity (MOQ)

In the fashion business, meeting MOQ is challenging. Fashion and trends change continually. So the buyer doesn't buy a bigger volume for each article they procure. Depending on the product design, order volume may be below the minimum order quantity of the vendor. Due to the low MOQ, we can’t place orders to big manufacturers. Bigger companies can not achieve the target price for small order quantities.

Hence sometimes it is difficult for merchants to convince vendors to accept lower MOQ. For these reasons, we may need to work with small vendors that accept short orders.

ALSO READ | Business Development Tips for Apparel Manufacturers

How do we deal with these challenges?

Identify good vendors for your orders. Good vendors can be defined as those who have a strong team for managing sample development, quality of the material, and stitching quality. Have a strong production planning team to manage production and ready the order within the lead time.

Time management - Don’t give much leverage to your vendors. Make sure they follow the schedule and commitment. Follow a common time and action calendar to have better visibility of the production status.

Train vendors - You can train your vendors (team) to some extent with whom you working with. So they can handle some tasks independently.

Through building a good relationship - A good relationship with your vendors. When one has a good relationship with the supplier's team difficult tasks can be completed easily. On the other side, merchandisers also need to extend help to the vendors.  


There are many other challenges for merchandisers in their job roles. Every merchant experiences things in different ways and they handle their job accordingly. Keep learning new things, and explore more about garment manufacturers and other vendors you work with. Use the latest technology solutions in your day-to-day jobs. 

One more crucial thing in merchandising jobs is that we can not leave everything to the vendor and take a break. Quality failures and delays in order will be considered merchandiser's failures at the end of the day. A buying house earns dollars by shipping the orders. So, we need to clear the final inspection by fixing problems whatever it is in the production processes.


Apparel Merchandising and Challenges in Merchandising Job as a Career

Job Responsibilities of a Production Merchant in a Garment Export House

Prasanta Sarkar

Prasanta Sarkar is a textile engineer and a postgraduate in fashion technology from NIFT, New Delhi, India. He has authored 6 books in the field of garment manufacturing technology, garment business setup, and industrial engineering. He loves writing how-to guide articles in the fashion industry niche. He has been working in the apparel manufacturing industry since 2006. He has visited garment factories in many countries and implemented process improvement projects in numerous garment units in different continents including Asia, Europe, and South Africa. He is the founder and editor of the Online Clothing Study Blog.

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