Skip main navigation

General merchandising manager

What does a general merchandising manager do? In this article, we look at the example of the singer Rihanna's relationship with Sephora stores.
This is an image of a man holding a digital tablet in one hand and using the index finget of the other hand to scroll through the contents on the screen. There are various clothing items on racks behind him.

A general merchandising manager (GMM) is the boss of the buyers’ boss. The GMM leads and manages the buyers of all divisions in a retail operation.

What are the responsibilities of a general merchandising manager?

This key administrator is responsible for setting the overall strategy and merchandise direction of the retail operation.

The GMM develops the buying and selling strategies that will, hopefully, maximize business performance and profitability. The GMM ensures that pricing decisions, promotional strategies, and marketing activities support the financial objectives of the merchandising team.

To accomplish this, the GMM must understand not only the competitors’ strengths, weaknesses, and strategies, but also the customers’ demographics, wants, and needs, as well as merchandise trends in all departments.

GMMs set the merchandise direction to ensure a focused continuity on the selling floor. They work with the divisional merchandising managers and buyers to develop competitive merchandise assortments that appeal to customers at the right prices and at the right fashion level.

They also assist the buying staff with securing the best merchandise exclusives, product launches, and deliveries available in the market, as illustrated with Fenty Beauty, a beauty brand collaboration with singer Rihanna and LVHM, and sold through the LVMH subsidiary, Sephora.

A photo of the singer Rihanna in front of a Sephora branded wall

In collaboration with LVMH, singer Rihanna developed FENTY, an inclusive beauty line, for distribution through Sephora stores worldwide.

The GMM collaborates with the buying team on which manufacturers or designers, fashion items, and merchandise categories will be carried in depth by the retail organization. GMMs manage, coach, and develop the buying staff, creating an environment that promotes the professional development of the divisional merchandising managers and buyers and enhancing morale among the entire buying team.

While collaborating with the divisional merchandising managers in developing merchandise assortments that support the needs of the customers and the financial objectives of each merchandise division, GMMs are ultimately responsible for overseeing merchandise selection and procurement of goods by the buyers.

The number of GMM positions is limited, as these are top leadership slots available in midsize and large retail operations. Some companies offer GMMs supplementary packages, such as bonuses or stock options, based on increases in the company’s sales volume and gross margin.

In the next step, you will examine the role of the divisional merchandising manager, which is the next step to becoming a GMM.

This article is from the free online

Careers in Fashion: Retail Marketing, Merchandising, and Management

Created by
FutureLearn - Learning For Life

Our purpose is to transform access to education.

We offer a diverse selection of courses from leading universities and cultural institutions from around the world. These are delivered one step at a time, and are accessible on mobile, tablet and desktop, so you can fit learning around your life.

We believe learning should be an enjoyable, social experience, so our courses offer the opportunity to discuss what you’re learning with others as you go, helping you make fresh discoveries and form new ideas.
You can unlock new opportunities with unlimited access to hundreds of online short courses for a year by subscribing to our Unlimited package. Build your knowledge with top universities and organisations.

Learn more about how FutureLearn is transforming access to education