While the term merchandiser is common the actual job varies, not just among products but among roles as well. Examples of positions include retail merchandisers, production merchandisers and sourcing merchandisers. Some roles require university degrees, while others are more job-experience driven. A retail merchandiser is the person who selects the goods to be sold by a particular company. This role is similar to that of a buyer. Jonathan Li, consultant for sales and marketing at recruitment agency Ambition, said that retail merchandising had changed in Hong Kong. 'Buyers used to fly to their company's headquarters and buy all the products for the season. The trend now is to customise the range to meet the specific local market. To do this, the merchandising team works with an internal design team. Together, they come up with about 50 per cent of a company's goods. The remainder would be sourced, say at a company's headquarters.' Mr Li said the job prospects for retail merchandisers in Hong Kong were stable, with more senior merchandisers predominantly working for their company in Hong Kong, while more junior staff might be sent to the mainland. In describing the qualities required for retail merchandising, Mr Li said that staff needed to be analytical. 'The person needs to understand both the micro and macro environment of the industry, so they need to know what's going on around them. They also need to be well-organised and understand pricing and products.' He said that the success of a retail merchandiser in a company could be measured by the inventory. 'You want to have low inventory by year-end. If you do, that means the goods you chose were good sellers.' Production merchandisers are the people who handle customer inquiries and follow up on orders. They also work closely with the factories to ensure quality and delivery, among other considerations. Winnie Lam Fo-chun, senior merchandiser of luggage and bags for Brington Industries, said the Hong Kong market for production merchandisers had decreased slightly due to more production merchandising being done at source in the mainland. Mr Li agreed: 'Before 1997, a company had to go through Hong Kong for production. Foreigners didn't know where to go in China, so Hong Kong played a key role. After 1997, China started to open up its markets to foreigners and its economy started to become more globalised. So the trend now is to cut out the middle man, meaning Hong Kong, and going directly to the source in China.' Ms Lam said requirements for production merchandisers were flexibility and the willingness to work in the mainland. 'You must also be bilingual in Cantonese and Putonghua, hard-working and willing to work overtime. While a university degree is good, job experience for a production merchandiser is more important.' She said production merchandisers were important to the overall success of a company. 'We act like a co-ordinator between the customer and the factory. We have to follow customers' orders from the beginning to the end.' If production merchandisers do their jobs correctly, customers are happy, which translates into repeat business - or new business through word of mouth. A sourcing merchandiser is responsible for sourcing new factories, negotiating prices on products and overseeing development of a particular season's products, among various other tasks. Unlike other merchandising roles, a sourcing merchandiser's job can vary from product line to product line, according to Jenny Wan Pei-yee, senior merchandiser for Levi Strauss. 'Working with garments, it's more specialised because we use a wide range of materials to offer our customers more products. But for another area, like sundries, they don't vary much in what they offer, so sourcing might be easier.' Ms Wan said job prospects for sourcing merchandisers in Hong Kong were stable. People with strong language skills who were flexible and able to travel were in demand. Despite the fact that there are more sourcing merchandisers in the mainland now than there were in the past, they are not in direct competition with Hong Kong. 'So many companies are in Hong Kong and Hong Kong has the infrastructure already in place, so there hasn't really been an impact on sourcing merchandisers in Hong Kong despite the growth in China,' Ms Wan said. To be successful, sourcing merchandisers had to be quite analytical, she said. 'You also need to be detail-oriented, have good communication skills, be patient in handling problems, and be able to work both independently and in a team.'