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She joined the university two years ago after more than a decade in merchandising roles for some of the biggest names on the high street, including Burton, Harvey Nichols, Mothercare and TK Maxx.

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"When I was in the sixth form, I worked in a shoe shop and was quite interested in how the shoes got on to the shelves, but I didn't know then that it was called merchandising.At Marks & Spencer, a similar importance is allocated to the position of merchandising."We couldn't function as a retail entity without people in merchandising roles," says Kay Jones-Wolsey, head of recruitment.After graduating, I worked for a year at Tesco head office in Welwyn Garden City, and then went to Habitat for four years.After the relatively slow pace of homeware, I wanted a new challenge and decided to move into the deep end of fast-moving fashion, so I moved to If you fall into the second category, you might be a merchandiser in the making.

The word "merchandising" has echoes that ring down the centuries, and reminds us, among other things, of Shakespeare's Venetian merchant, trading goods from far off lands in a strange currency called the ducat.

Are you the sort of person who gets annoyed when you walk into your favourite shop and find out that things have changed?

Or does the rejig on the sales floor automatically arouse your interest, prompting your own opinions about the choices made to introduce a new mix of products for the buying public?

But the basic disciplines of merchandising have endured, and are as relevant in the 21st-century retail environment as they were in the Bard's day.

"Merchandisers are responsible for ensuring that products appear in the right store at the right time and in the right quantities," reads the succinct description of the role on Prospects, the graduate careers website ( Every retail operation in the country has merchandisers, working closely with the buying teams, trying to forecast trends, plan stock levels and monitor how fast, or slow, the stuff is disappearing from the shelves. These are the people who've been working extra hard over the last 12 months, as high-street stores up and down the country have been slashing prices and concocting clever promotions to try to make the best of the recession.

They would then start making decisions around a particular line, depending on whether figures were healthy or unhealthy, to remedy the situation." Among its annual intake of up to 200 graduates, M&S places a small proportion in merchandising roles, in the same way as graduates go straight into design, food technology and IT positions at head office.