What is Merchandising?
The practice of buying and selling materials and services is called merchandising. But if we explain deeply, merchandising is the process of planning right merchandise at right time in the right quantity and at the right price to meet the needs of the company’s target customer. Merchandising is a critical aspect of retail business. The goal of merchandising is to present products in a way that appeals to the target audience, while also maximizing profits and minimizing costs.
What is Apparel Merchandising?
Apparel merchandising refers to the process of promoting, selling, and distributing clothing and fashion products. It involves all the activities involved in bringing a fashion product to market, including design, sourcing, production, marketing, and sales. Merchandising activity coordinates different departments in the apparel industry. It develops a valuable relationship with the buyers.
Apparel merchandising involves a constant watch of the production of the apparel products. Apparel merchandiser should have constant eye on the manufacture and communicate with the manufacturer to get the goods as per the requirement of the buyer. In the textile and apparel industry, merchandisers have a predominantly significant role owing to the exhaustive nature of product range.
Steps of Apparel Merchandising Process:
1. Order Enquiry:
This is the first step of apparel merchandising where the buyers have an enquiry with the merchandiser about a new order.
2. Forwarding Tech Pack:
After the order enquiry has been completed, the buyer will send a ‘specification sheet or tech pack’ to the merchant. It covers all the details of a particular product style such as product style design, measurement details of apparel, type of fabric and construction, style code of a product, surface ornamentation details if any etc.
3. Product Development:
After the receipt of specification sheet (tech pack), the merchandisers have to organise the information provided in the specification sheet in a single format by categorising different product styles and their details. Consequently, the merchandiser should provide proper instructions to the junior merchandiser about the product style and hence he or she could assist the sample coordinators to prepare the development samples from the sampling department.
4. Approval of Development Samples:
When the development samples are prepared, two or three samples have to be sent to the buyer for its approval. The main objective of a development sample is to realise how the particular style of garment looks with the specific details. These samples are prepared with the available fabric in the industry similar to the exact requirement. In the development sample, surface embellishments and fit analysis are followed as per the specification sheet.
Once the development sample is approved by the buyer, then the costing has to be done taking into account various costs incurred to produce a garment.
It contains various factors such as:
- Fabric cost
- Trims and accessories cost
- CMT (cut-make-trim)
- Finishing or washing cost
- Bank charges
- Buffer value
- Miscellaneous costs such as rejection cost, wastage etc.
6. Order Placement:
After the determination of a garment cost which is also approved by the buyer, then the buyer will place the order with the necessary quantity of order and other main details to the merchant.
7. Order of Fabric and Trims:
After the conformation of the order by the buyer, the merchandiser can place the order for requisite fabric by considering various parameters such as colour, GSM, weave structure etc., which is necessary for the specific apparel style. The requirements are forwarded by the merchandiser to the purchase department and they will place the orders.
8. Lab Dip:
The lab dips for a particular garment style, containing many shades of the fabric color which the buyer is asked have to be sent to the buyer for the approval before going for further production.
9. Fit Sample:
The fit garment sample is made after the development sample is approved by the buyer. The fit sample is generally produced in a medium size and with original fabric to check the fit. All the measurements should be verified as per the specification sheet. After checking the fit sample, the buyer returns the fit approvals sheet which comprises all the actual measurements and deviation in the garment has occurred for the purpose of correction.
The order is confirmed only after the approval of the fit sample by the buyer.
10. Pre-production Samples:
After the approval of fit samples, the pre-production (PP) samples (otherwise known as red seal samples) have to be produced. The red seal sample, which has to be produced as per the buyer’s requirement, should have all the specifications of the particular style with the original or exact fabric, trims, color, surface ornamentation etc. Two or three garment samples in each size (S, M, L, XL) have to be sent to the buyer for approval and the buyer can advise on any corrections if required.
11. Size Set Samples:
These size set samples are prepared for the intension of inspection of various sizes of the same style with respect to measurements, fit, styling etc. Further, the size set samples are produced to verify whether the assigned unit is capable of producing the specific garment style as per the requirements and specifications in all the sizes.
12. Pre-production Meeting (PPM):
After all the size set samples are approved by the buyers and all raw materials are organized in the stores, then the bulk production of the garment style can be started. A preproduction meeting should be organized by the merchandiser prior to bulk production with the production manager and other department heads to plan the production process to evade any delays in target time.
13. Hand-Over the Production File to Production Planning and Control:
The production file comprising all the information of a particular garment style has to be prepared by the merchandiser. It is then forwarded to CPC along with the approved preproduction samples which are further forwarded to PPC after examination of the file by the CPC. Some of the details in the production file include the following items:
- Measurements for the specific garment style
- Export order sheet
- Color details of the fabric and trims
- Brief description of style
- Type of packing required
- Instructions related to print/embroidery
- Material requirement sheet
- Job details for CAD and fabric order
- Marker plan
- TNA order sheet
- 2D style diagram and trims
- Packing information
14. Ensuring the Availability of Fabrics and Trims:
After the receipt of the production file, the PPC have to study and check every detail in the file related to the particular garment style and simultaneously have to check the availability of the particular fabric and trims in the store.
15. Inspecting the Surface Ornamentation of the Particular Style:
Surface embellishment may consist of embroidery, printing or appliqué and these are made as per the requirements of the buyer; hence, the PPC department should check the ornamentation details and plans accordingly to complete the same.
16. Checking the Status of Stitching Materials In-House:
Sewing accessories are materials that are used for sewing such as sewing threads and accessories that assist production. Hence, simultaneously the merchandiser has to make arrangements for the stitching materials in-house.
17. Checking the Patterns with Master:
The production file includes all the information about the patterns and the merchandiser has to forward the original patterns alongside with the production file to the production planning and control department. Once they receive the patterns, they will forward the patterns to the pattern master in the department and he or she will check the pattern and confirm the same.
18. Grading and Final Cross Check of Patterns:
After inspection of all the patterns of different product styles by the pattern master, it is forwarded to the automatic grading section or manual grading section in the industry. Grading is a process of proportionately increasing or decreasing the sizes from the basic one. Finally, the graded pattern should be inspected and confirmed by the pattern master before going for further process.
19. Spreading and Cutting:
It is the process of arranging fabrics on the spreading table as per length and width of the marker in stack form which has to be carried out carefully without any wrinkles or tension in the fabric. After spreading is completed, the patterns are placed over the top layer of the spread as per the marker plan and the plies are cut using a straight knife and band knife cutting machines. After cutting is completed, the cut components of the garment are sorted and bundled.
20. Garment Wash:
In some specific cases, the cut components will go for washing as per the specification sheet or buyer requirement.
21. Fabric Printing/Embroidery:
After the completion of garment washing, the bundles could be sent for printing/embroidery if required for the specific style. Surface ornamentations should be carried out on cut garment panels as it minimizes the risk of destroying the entire garment if some defects occur during printing.
22. Loading the Order in the Production Line:
After the surface embellishment is completed on cut components, the bundles are moved on to the sewing department as per the production plan. In the sewing section, the bundles are allotted to each worker as per his or her work and the sewing process moves from one end to the other end where the complete garment is assembled in a line.
After the complete apparel is assembled and inspected at the end of the each line, it is forwarded to the finishing section where the following operations will be carried out:
- Inspection: For any defects and stains
- Trimming: Protruding threads are removed to provide a neat appearance to the garment
- Ironing: To remove or introduce crease marks in the garment
- Packing: The finished garments are folded and packed in the polythene covers
Dispatch is the final process in which the garments are generally packed in wooden cartons with the dimensions specified by the buyer and shipped to the buyer.
- Apparel Merchandising by R. Rathinamoorthy and R. Surjit
- Fashion Marketing Management by A. Arunraj and V. Ramesh Babu
- Apparel Manufacturing Technology By T. Karthik, P. Ganesan and D. Gopalakrishnan
- Garment Manufacturing Technology Edited by Rajkishore Nayak and Rajiv Padhye
- Garments Merchandising by M. A. Kashem.