Top 11 Merchandising Specialist Certifications
This article explores the top certifications for merchandising specialists, including program details and benefits.
Published 19 min read
Certifications are important for a merchandising specialist in the job market as they demonstrate expertise in the field, provide proof of training and knowledge, and can give professionals an edge over other applicants. Certifications can also provide evidence that a professional has achieved a certain level of proficiency in a specific area. By having certifications, employers know that an individual is qualified to do the job and is more likely to be successful in the role. Additionally, certifications often come with additional benefits such as access to industry resources, networking opportunities, and discounts on related products or services.
The purpose of this article is to review the top certifications for Merchandising Specialists and explain how they can help enhance a merchandising specialist's career.
What are Merchandising Specialist Certifications?
Merchandising specialist certification is a credential that recognizes professionals who have demonstrated a high level of expertise in the field of merchandising. These certifications are typically awarded by industry-recognized organizations such as the American Marketing Association (AMA) or the National Retail Federation (NRF). A merchandising specialist certification helps to demonstrate a professional’s knowledge and understanding of merchandising best practices, which can be beneficial for job seekers and career advancement.
The certification process typically requires applicants to demonstrate their knowledge and skills in areas such as product selection, display techniques, pricing strategies, promotional tactics, customer service, and data analysis. Upon completion of the program, certified individuals gain access to exclusive resources including networking opportunities with other certified professionals and access to industry-related publications. Additionally, many employers recognize this credential as an indication of an individual’s commitment to their profession and may use it as a factor during hiring decisions or when considering promotions. Ultimately, obtaining a merchandising specialist certification can help boost one’s career prospects in the retail industry.
Pro Tip: Before pursuing a merchandising specialist certification, research the various certifications offered to determine which will best meet your professional goals. Consider the cost of each certification, the type of material covered, and the time commitment required to complete it. Additionally, ensure that any certifications you pursue are recognized and respected by employers in your industry.
Related: What does a Merchandising Specialist do?
Top 11 Merchandising Specialist Certifications
Here’s our list of the best certifications available to Merchandising Specialists today.
1. Certified Merchandising Specialist (CMS)
A Certified Merchandising Specialist (CMS) is a professional designation that recognizes an individual’s knowledge and expertise in the field of merchandising. It is awarded by the National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail trade association. The certification demonstrates a comprehensive understanding of merchandising principles, practices, and strategies.
The CMS certification program consists of two courses: Course 1: Merchandising Fundamentals and Course 2: Advanced Merchandising Strategies. Both courses must be completed to obtain the CMS certification. The coursework can be completed online or through in-person instruction at an NRF-approved training center.
The cost for the two courses is $1,500 for NRF members and $2,000 for non-members. The cost includes all study materials and access to an online learning platform with practice exams and other resources to help prepare for the final exam.
The total time required to complete both courses will vary depending on how quickly you are able to learn the material, but it typically takes between six months to one year to complete both courses and earn your CMS certification.
2. Certified Professional in Merchandising Management (CPMM)
Certified Professional in Merchandising Management (CPMM) is a certification program designed for professionals in the retail and merchandising industry. It is offered by the International Institute of Merchandising (IIM). The CPMM certification provides a comprehensive understanding of the principles, processes, and practices of merchandising management.
The CPMM certification requires applicants to have at least five years of experience in the retail and/or merchandising field, as well as having completed an approved course in merchandising management. Applicants must also pass an exam administered by IIM. The exam consists of multiple-choice questions covering topics such as product development, pricing strategies, inventory management, customer service, and marketing.
The CPMM certification process typically takes 6-12 months to complete depending on how quickly the applicant completes the required coursework and passes the exam.
The cost of obtaining a CPMM certification varies depending on whether or not you choose to take an online or in-person course. Online courses typically cost between $500-$1,000 while in-person courses can range from $2,000-$3,000. In addition to course fees there is also a fee for taking the exam which is usually around $300-$400.
3. Certified Visual Merchandiser (CVM)
Certified Visual Merchandiser (CVM) is a professional certification program that provides formal recognition to individuals who have demonstrated knowledge and expertise in the field of visual merchandising. The certification process includes an assessment of the candidate’s knowledge, skills, and abilities related to visual merchandising.
The CVM program is offered by the International Visual Merchandising Association (IVMA). To become certified, applicants must pass an exam that covers topics such as store design, product display, customer service, marketing strategies, and retail operations. It typically takes about three months to complete the certification process.
To get started with the CVM program, applicants must first submit an application form and pay a one-time fee of $200 USD. This fee covers the cost of taking the exam and receiving a certificate upon successful completion. Once approved for certification, applicants will receive detailed instructions on how to prepare for the exam. After passing the exam, candidates will be awarded with their CVM certificate.
The CVM certification is valid for three years from date of issue. After this period has expired, certified professionals must renew their credentials by taking a refresher course or retaking the examination at their own expense.
4. Certified Retail Merchandiser (CRM)
Certified Retail Merchandiser (CRM) is a professional certification program designed to recognize retail professionals who have demonstrated knowledge and expertise in the field of retail merchandising. The CRM program is administered by the National Retail Federation (NRF) and is recognized as an industry-leading credential.
To become certified, applicants must meet certain education and experience requirements, pass a comprehensive exam, and agree to adhere to the NRF Code of Professional Conduct. The exam covers topics such as store operations, product management, customer service, visual merchandising, marketing and promotions, inventory control, financial management, and more.
The certification process typically takes three to six months from start to finish. First-time applicants must submit an application form along with proof of their educational background and work experience. Once accepted into the program, applicants must complete a series of online courses that cover the topics outlined in the exam. After completing the courses, applicants must take a proctored exam at an approved testing center. Upon passing the exam with a score of 75% or higher, they will receive their official CRM certificate.
The cost for the CRM program varies depending on how many courses you take and which type of testing center you use. Generally speaking, it costs around $1,000 to $2,000 for all materials and fees associated with becoming certified.
5. Certified Store Manager (CSM)
Certified Store Manager (CSM) is a certification program offered by the National Retail Federation (NRF). The program is designed to help retail store managers develop and enhance their skills in order to better manage their stores. It provides an in-depth look at the principles and practices of successful retail management, from customer service to merchandising and operations.
It takes approximately two months to complete the CSM program. The program consists of six modules: Introduction to Retail Management, Customer Service, Merchandising, Operations & Logistics, Financials & Analytics, and Leadership & Communication. Each module includes online learning activities such as videos, quizzes, case studies, and other interactive activities.
In order to get certified as a Store Manager through the NRF’s CSM program, you must first complete all six modules and pass the final exam with a score of 80% or higher. Once you have completed the coursework and passed the exam, you will receive your CSM certification from the NRF.
The cost for the Certified Store Manager (CSM) program is $499 USD. This fee covers all materials associated with the course including access to online learning activities, practice exams, and support from instructors throughout your journey towards certification.
6. Certified Retailer (CRT)
Certified Retailer (CRT) is a certification program offered by the National Retail Federation (NRF). The certification is designed to recognize and reward retailers who demonstrate excellence in customer service, operational efficiency, and financial stability.
The CRT program requires that applicants have been in business for at least one year and have achieved a certain level of sales volume. Applicants must also provide evidence of their commitment to customer service, operational efficiency, and financial stability.
It typically takes about two months to complete the application process for the CRT certification. During this time, applicants must submit documents such as financial statements, customer feedback surveys, and other relevant information. Once the application is approved, applicants are notified via email or mail within two weeks.
The cost of applying for the CRT certification varies depending on the size of the business and its sales volume. Generally speaking, smaller businesses can expect to pay anywhere from $200 to $500 for the application fee alone. There may be additional costs associated with submitting documents or other materials required for review.
7. Certified Inventory Control Professional (CICP)
Certified Inventory Control Professional (CICP) is a certification program offered by the American Production and Inventory Control Society (APICS). It is designed to help inventory professionals demonstrate their knowledge and skills in the field of inventory management. The CICP certification is recognized as an industry standard for those who are responsible for managing, controlling, and optimizing inventory levels.
The CICP certification requires applicants to pass two exams: the APICS Certified in Production and Inventory Management (CPIM) exam and the APICS Certified Inventory Control Professional (CICP) exam. The CPIM exam covers topics such as demand forecasting, purchasing, production planning, inventory control, quality management, and more. The CICP exam focuses on topics related to inventory control such as cycle counting, safety stock calculations, ABC analysis, and more.
It typically takes around 6-12 months to complete both exams depending on how much time you have available to dedicate towards studying each week. To get started with the CICP certification process you will need to register with APICS online or through their customer service department.
The cost of the CICP certification depends on whether you purchase a study package or not. A basic study package costs $1,095 USD which includes access to online learning resources such as practice exams and webinars. If you choose not to purchase a study package then you will only need to pay for the two exams which cost $445 USD each.
8. Certified Shopping Center Manager (CSCM)
Certified Shopping Center Manager (CSCM) is a professional certification program designed to recognize the expertise and experience of shopping center professionals. The CSCM designation is awarded by the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC), a leading global trade association for the retail real estate industry.
The CSCM program requires applicants to have at least five years of full-time shopping center management experience, including responsibility for leasing, marketing, operations and security. Applicants must also pass an exam that covers topics such as tenant relations, leasing strategies, financial analysis and marketing.
It typically takes 6-12 months to complete the CSCM program. To get started, applicants must submit an application and fee to ICSC. The fee varies depending on whether you are an ICSC member or non-member; members pay $495 while non-members pay $695. After submitting your application and fee, you will be sent information about how to register for the exam.
Once you have passed the exam and met all other requirements, you will receive your CSCM designation from ICSC. This certification is valid for three years and can be renewed by completing additional coursework or attending ICSC conferences or seminars.
9. International Council of Shopping Centers Certification Program (ICSC-CP)
The International Council of Shopping Centers Certification Program (ICSC-CP) is an online certification program that provides professionals in the retail real estate industry with the knowledge and skills needed to excel in their field. The program is designed to provide a comprehensive overview of the retail real estate industry, including topics such as leasing, finance, marketing, operations, and development.
The ICSC-CP consists of six courses and takes approximately two months to complete. The courses include: Introduction to Retail Real Estate; Leasing & Tenant Relationships; Financial Analysis & Risk Management; Marketing & Promotions; Operations & Asset Management; and Development & Construction. Each course includes lectures, case studies, quizzes, and other activities to help participants learn the material. Participants must pass all six courses with a minimum grade of 70% in order to receive the ICSC-CP certificate.
To get started on the ICSC-CP program, interested individuals must first create an account on the ICSC website. After registering for the program, participants can begin taking courses at their own pace. The cost of the program varies depending on whether or not you are an ICSC member. For non-members, each course costs $195 USD while members pay $150 USD per course.
Overall, the International Council of Shopping Centers Certification Program (ICSC-CP) provides professionals in the retail real estate industry with a comprehensive education in their field that will help them advance their careers and stay up-to-date with current trends and practices in this ever-evolving sector.
10. Association for Retail Environments Certification Program (ARECP)
The Association for Retail Environments Certification Program (ARECP) is a comprehensive certification program that provides professional recognition to retail professionals in the areas of design, merchandising, and store operations. The ARECP is designed to recognize the skills and knowledge of experienced retail professionals who have demonstrated excellence in their field.
The ARECP consists of five core courses: Retail Design Fundamentals, Merchandising Strategies, Store Operations Management, Visual Merchandising, and Business Planning & Analysis. Each course is offered online or in-person and includes an exam at the end. The entire program takes approximately six months to complete.
To get certified through the ARECP, you must first register for the program and pay a one-time registration fee of $395. After registering, you can begin taking the courses immediately. Upon successful completion of all five courses and exams, you will receive your certification from ARECP.
The cost of each course varies depending on whether it is taken online or in person; however, most courses range from $250-$400 per course. Additionally, there may be additional costs associated with taking the exams as well as any other materials needed for the courses such as textbooks or software programs.
11. National Retail Federation’s Professional Certifications Program (NRF-PCP).
The National Retail Federation’s Professional Certifications Program (NRF-PCP) is a comprehensive certification program designed to help retail professionals advance their careers. The program offers four certifications: Certified Retail Professional (CRP), Certified Retail Manager (CRM), Certified Retail Analyst (CRA), and Certified Retail Executive (CRE).
The NRF-PCP is a self-paced program that requires applicants to have at least two years of experience in the retail industry. To obtain any of the certifications, applicants must pass an exam that covers topics such as customer service, operations management, merchandising, marketing, finance, and technology.
To get started with the NRF-PCP, applicants must first register for the program on the NRF website. Once registered, they will receive access to study materials and can begin preparing for their exams. Applicants should plan on spending at least six months studying for their exams before taking them.
The cost of the NRF-PCP varies depending on which certification you are pursuing. The CRP certification costs $395; the CRM certification costs $495; the CRA certification costs $595; and the CRE certification costs $695. All fees include access to study materials and one exam attempt.
Do You Really Need a Merchandising Specialist Certificate?
Whether or not you need a merchandising specialist certificate depends on your career aspirations. If you are looking to become a retail buyer, visual merchandiser, store manager, or any other type of professional in the retail industry, then having a merchandising specialist certificate could be beneficial. The certificate can provide employers with evidence that you have taken the time to acquire the necessary knowledge and skills for success in the field.
A merchandising specialist certificate program typically covers topics such as product selection and pricing, customer service and sales techniques, inventory management, and marketing strategies. Depending on the program you choose, it may also include courses in business law and accounting. Having this knowledge can help you stand out from other candidates when applying for positions in the retail industry. It can also give employers confidence that you have the necessary skills to excel in their organization.
In addition to providing valuable knowledge, having a merchandising specialist certificate can show potential employers that you are committed to your chosen profession. With many companies competing for top talent these days, having an additional credential can make all the difference when it comes to landing a job. Furthermore, if you are interested in advancing your career within the retail industry, having this certification may be essential for promotion opportunities as well.
Ultimately, whether or not you need a merchandising specialist certificate depends on what type of job you want and how far up the ladder you plan to climb within your chosen profession. However, given its potential advantages for job seekers in this field, obtaining one could prove invaluable for those who are serious about making a successful career out of their passion for retailing.
Related: Merchandising Specialist Resume Examples
FAQs About Merchandising Specialist Certifications
1. What qualifications do I need to become a Merchandising Specialist?
Answer: To become a Merchandising Specialist, you typically need at least a high school diploma or GED and some relevant experience in the retail industry. You may also consider pursuing a certification program in merchandising to further develop your skills and knowledge.
2. What is the cost of obtaining a Merchandising Specialist Certification?
Answer: The cost of obtaining a Merchandising Specialist Certification varies depending on the institution offering the program. Generally, you can expect to pay between $100 and $500 for online courses, or up to several thousand dollars for more comprehensive classroom-based programs.
3. How long does it take to get certified as a Merchandising Specialist?
Answer: The time it takes to become certified as a Merchandising Specialist depends on the type of certification program you choose and how quickly you complete it. Most certification programs require between 10-20 hours of study time, but some may require more or less depending on their specific requirements.
4. What are the benefits of becoming certified as a Merchandising Specialist?
Answer: Becoming certified as a Merchandising Specialist can provide many benefits, including increased job opportunities, better pay, improved professional credibility, and access to exclusive job networks and resources.
5. Are there any professional organizations that offer certifications specifically for Merchandising Specialists?
Answer: Yes! Professional organizations like the International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC) offer certifications specifically for merchandisers, such as Certified Shopping Center Manager (CSCM) or Certified Retail Property Executive (CRPE).