Fred Lamster recently contributed an article entitle, “The Changing Role of the Merchant” to Total Retail.
Merchants were once the only critical players in the retail industry. Their ability to drive the business by understanding the customer and predicting customer behavior made them invaluable to their organizations. However, now that “omnichannel” retailing is the new reality, the merchant’s role is rapidly changing. A merchant must now also be able to absorb enhanced analytics and work even more closely with design and marketing applications to understand and adapt to trends that satisfy quickly changing customer tastes.
Executives and HR leaders at retail companies are now asking themselves, “What does it mean to be a strong merchant, and how we can ensure that we retain and develop top merchants into future leaders?” Until recently, most retail CEOs or CHROs thought that augmenting a merchant’s skill set with leadership training was sufficient. Through informal programs — e.g., internal mentoring, coaching, etc. — they helped their merchants develop the capabilities necessary to lead a team of people.
However, in a rapidly transforming retail market, simply leading a team is no longer enough. Now, a merchant must embody a number of additional mission-critical competencies.