Before I joined TPC I spent 5 years in the retail industry working in merchandising roles. There was a lot I loved about merchandising - working with exciting product and the buzz of a good week of trading were certainly highlights - but I was ready to step into a space where I could develop new skills and widen my experience, which lead me to consulting. Once I made the leap, I realised that my current experience in the industry gave me a number of invaluable transferable skills; here are 7 that helped me transition into my new career.
Commercial Awareness & Business Acumen
One of the most valuable assets my career in merchandising provided me was a commercial awareness and working knowledge of the retail industry, alongside an understanding of different types of retail businesses and their operating formats. Having this insight into the marketplace and how retailers function is essential to understanding your clients and their business needs, allowing you to support them in the right way and ultimately deliver great service.
Understanding of Retail Terminology
Having the ability to speak the language of the industry should not be an underrated skill as a retail consultant. It not only makes it easier to understand and communicate with your clients but also allows you to act as an interpreter when working alongside others less experienced with the nuances of the industry, such as those in more technical roles.
Numerical and Analytical Skills
Merchandisers spend much of their work-life evaluating and reporting on data, analysing large data sets and drawing out insights to support future decision-making. This ability to interpret data and create actionable insights is key for a consultant to help them understand, support, and make informed recommendations to clients. Additionally, being able to analyse information quickly in Excel, as most merchandisers are, is a great skill for a consultant and can save you an immeasurable amount of time when reviewing large sets of data for a project.
Countless sign-off sessions and trade meetings lead to merchandisers becoming very used to presenting information back to a room (or Zoom call!) of people, often including members of senior management. Whilst delivering a presentation may always be a little nerve-wracking no matter your level of experience, the familiarity with presenting is valuable for a consultant when you are required to deliver information back, whether internally to colleagues or in a client meeting.
As a merchandiser, it’s important to understand how best to communicate and share information with a wide range of people - from buyers, suppliers, logistics partners and senior management. Having the ability to tailor how you communicate is key to ensuring you get your message across clearly, and is an important skill for a consultant when trying to engage different clients or explain complex information clearly.
In merchandising, a large part of ensuring good inventory management and visibility is maintaining a strong relationship with your suppliers. In my experience, there is a certain inevitability of delays and issues each season but the biggest problems tend to arise when there is a breakdown of communication. Understanding how to get the best out of a working relationship is a key skill as a consultant and will help to ensure the smooth delivery of your projects.
Merchandisers are often required to juggle many things at once, notably reviewing and analysing past seasons whilst trading the current and planning the next! This ability to focus on multiple pieces of work simultaneously and effectively prioritise time spent on each is a great asset for a consultant. It is not uncommon to be supporting multiple clients or internal projects at the same time, so great time management and organisational skills are key. I won’t say that the shift away from industry wasn’t a daunting decision but now, a year into my role as a Consultant with TPC, I can wholeheartedly say it has been a brilliant and highly rewarding one! I have had the opportunity to learn a huge amount, working across a range of projects whilst still being able to put the skills I developed in industry to great use. If like me you’re thinking of taking a step away from merchandising, retail consulting is a path to consider - there are plenty of transferable skills that will help you take the leap!