As a well-established industry, merchandising has a stronger ability to recover from recession, and employers and recruiting firms have been busy recently finding the right people for new openings. 'We are receiving a lot of inquiries these days,' said Helen Law, manager of executive search and selection at Gemini Personnel. The surge in demand is mainly from well-established buying offices that are expanding, and more European and United States companies coming to Hong Kong to set up shop. 'It is very costly for executives to fly here all the time,' said Ms Law. 'Plus, [the firms] need professionals more dedicated to monitoring and supervising the production and keeping a close eye on the vendors. They cannot put their production at risk.' More than 80 per cent of sourcing is done in China and the rest across Asia, including in South Korea, Taiwan and Malaysia. Merchandisers can work in-house for fashion brands such as Hugo Boss, Agnes B and G2000 or toy manufacturers such as KingFisher. Alternatively, they can work as external sourcing or trading partners in companies such as William E. Connor or Li & Fung. Another route is to join merchandising firms that serve overseas clients. There are two product ranges merchandisers can follow - garments or sundries. Sundries are consumer products including toys, stationery and hardware. Professionals tend to specialise in a product range. It takes at least 15 years, starting from assistant merchandiser, to become a merchandising director. A junior merchandiser will help to source suppliers and factories, inspect and follow up orders, and provide administrative support. When they are promoted and take on team management responsibilities, they will need to help clients in designing products. Janet Ednani, Kowloon branch manager of Gemini Personnel, which specialises in recruiting merchandisers, said: 'Time management and problem-solving skills are crucial. Their core responsibilities are to ensure that products can reach buyers at a particular time according to the specifications. They must know the concept and follow up until the end of production. Very tight deadlines need to be met, otherwise huge losses will be incurred.' Employers put more emphasis these days on merchandisers' academic qualifications than in the past. They are now expected to have a diploma or degree in merchandising or business administration. 'Employers are looking for candidates who have the potential to grow with the company,' Ms Ednani said. Language and communication skills are of equal importance. 'They need to face the clients as well as their suppliers all the time. When interacting with European or United States buyers, they are required to communicate effectively both in spoken and written English. Mandarin is also essential when they travel to China for sourcing,' Ms Ednani said. Employers are also looking for extensive networks and contacts from merchandisers. 'They need to maintain good relationships with suppliers and factories, and possess the ability to source and the skills to negotiate,' she said. Good business acumen and a flexible attitude are also imperative. Although merchandising is not generally considered a highly paid profession, employers reward their merchandisers handsomely. 'Employers give good bonuses these days, said Ms Ednani. 'Most give more than a month's bonus. For organisations which have done well, some staff receive a bonus of three to six months.' In turn, staff are required to work long hours under pressure and travel extensively. Job requirements Essential skills required from employers: Effective communications skills in English (spoken and written) and proficiency in Mandarin. Excellent product knowledge. All-round personality, intelligence and flexibility. Good academic training in merchandising or business administration.