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What is a planner?

Do you know what is the role and responsibilities of a planner? This article explores this dynamic career track.

In large companies, a planner works in collaboration with a buyer to develop sales forecasts, inventory plans, and spending budgets for merchandise to minimize markdowns and achieve the retailer’s sales and profit objectives. Using past sales data and sales projections based on fashion trends, planners construct merchandise assortments for specific departments.

The merchandise assortment plan can include sizes, colors, styles, price ranges, and classifications. For example, a planner in a junior sportswear department may construct a chart, referred to as a planning module, for top-to-bottom ratios.

In this planning module, the planner will project how many blouses, T-shirts, and tank tops to purchase and how many pants, shorts, or skirts need to be purchased for a given season.

Today’s junior customer, for instance, buys two to four times as many tops as she does bottoms. The merchandise assortment needs to reflect this proportion to be profitable. Using the planning module, planners recommend product flow (e.g., tanks, tees, and long-sleeved shirts) by department and by month or season.

They also project markdown dollar budgets by month or season, based on actual markdowns during prior seasons, and assist buyers in determining how much money will be available to spend on new merchandise by providing seasonal buying budgets and monthly open-to-buy dollars by department and by season.

In addition to planning at the start of a season, planners in multi-unit retail firms review sales and stock performance by retail location as it compares to plans. They also ensure that key vendor plans are in place and that there is adequate inventory for the sales of major lines. Throughout each season, the planner coordinates communication to and from stores with regard to merchandise performance and sales plans. A department manager in the retail store may, for example, contact a planner for additional types of items that have sold out in the store. The planner will transfer the preferred merchandise into this store from a branch store that has not sold the items as well.

In partnership with the buying staff, the planner’s main goal is to accurately anticipate and control inventories at the retail locations to maximize sales, inventory, and profit.

Next we take a look at what qualifications you would need to become a planner and what career challenges you can expect.

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Careers in Fashion: Retail Marketing, Merchandising, and Management

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