The Soul of the Retailer: A Great Merchant?

Like the drummer in a band, or a wide receiver on a football team, a merchant has a little edge to them and march to a different beat than the other employees in your company. A good merchant with a great eye for product, a full understanding of their customer, and a big picture view of your organizational goals are hard find.

I ran on the track team in college and my specialty was the sprints. My track coach would say, “You can’t teach speed! You either have it, or you don’t.” Well, I contend that the same holds true about a good merchant.

A true merchant looks at life, trends, culture, and certainly product in a very different way than the rest of the world.  A merchant is able to “get inside the skin” of their customers, identify with them, and have the second sense for product that their customers desire.  A merchant is an optimist that has an emotional response or feeling in their gut when they spot a great product. Merchants are risk-takers on the front end of a trend and have the courage to walk away or back off from a product even when the numbers say to keep reordering. The wiliness to make mistakes is all about merchandising, but a good merchant plans for blunders and profitable ways to get out of a problem.

A merchant always has a strong opinion and has no problem defending their point of view even if they are the lone voice in the room. Merchants are curious creatures, hungry for information with the ability to see past the numbers. They are analytical, but their mind works very differently than a forecaster or planner. A merchant must make the study of merchandise and marketing channel analytics a top priority. A solid grasp of performance is key to understanding strong forecasting.

Great merchants and marketers must think differently today than in years past. We’re living in the disruption economy. For example, does it make sense to feature on Amazon or an online marketplace for a go-to-market strategy for driving merchandise demand? What role do Instagram and Snapchat play in telling the story for new merchandise?

A merchant is creative and somehow thinks of themselves as a designer, but they are grounded in a place to use the left and right sides of their brain to make balanced decisions. They also have to be business savvy, understanding margins, open to buys, assortment planning, and vendor negotiations.  Yes, great merchants are hard to find but in short, they are the “Soul of the Company.”

My 15 years at Patagonia taught me as the Global Director of Merchandising to spot product trends, understand the importance of storytelling and branding, the power of featuring best sellers, and spotlighting new and innovative styles in the product assortment.

Let me help your company develop a cohesive merchandise story across all sales channels applying best practices both digitally and in print. As a brand champion and a sales advocate, I can help you with a creative redistribution of wealth and a cohesive marketing and merchandise story across all sales channels. Reach out to me at

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