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Merchandiser Career Guide

What is a merchandiser?

A merchandiser is an expert in product presentation and plays a vital role in the retail industry. Their focus lies in arranging products in a way that promotes sales. They have a profound impact on a store’s profitability as their work directly influences customer shopping behavior, the perception of store image, and ultimately, the purchasing decisions made by customers.

In the retail world, these professionals are the strategists behind the scenes. They plan and implement layouts and displays that are visually appealing and lead customers on a journey through the store that maximizes their exposure to products and optimizes the retailer’s sales potential.

Duties and responsibilities

Merchandisers are responsible for planning and setting up store displays, often working with various products, from clothes to electronics. They coordinate with store managers to determine the best way to present products to maximize customer attraction and sales.

Their responsibilities also include monitoring inventory levels, deciding the placement and arrangement of products within the store, and updating displays based on season, trend, or promotional events. They often use visual elements, such as color, lighting, and space, to enhance product appeal.

In addition to in-store work, professionals in this role often conduct market research to understand customer behavior, competitor strategies, and retail trends. They often need to adapt quickly to changes in customer demand and trend shifts.

Work environment

Merchandisers typically work in a retail environment, ranging from small boutique stores to large department stores or supermarkets. They operate in a dynamic, fast-paced environment that often involves physical labor, such as lifting heavy objects or being on their feet for extended periods.

Typical work hours

The work hours for a merchandiser can vary depending on the store’s operational hours and specific needs. They generally work during normal business hours, but early mornings, evenings, and weekend shifts are also common, especially when there’s a need to set up or change displays without disrupting regular store operations. The role can require flexibility, as retail seasons and promotional events can impact the workload and schedule.

How to become a merchandiser

This career guide section outlines the process of becoming a merchandiser – we highlight the key steps, from required education to acquiring relevant experience.

Step 1: Achieve a high school diploma

The first step is completing high school. This education provides fundamental skills necessary in the industry, like basic math, communication, and problem-solving skills.

Step 2: Earn a bachelor’s degree

A bachelor’s degree, preferably in business, marketing, or a related field, can significantly improve your prospects. Coursework that covers business administration, retail management, consumer behavior, and marketing can be particularly beneficial for a career in merchandising.

Step 3: Secure an internship

An internship is a great way to gain practical experience and develop contacts within the industry. Many universities and colleges offer internship programs that potentially lead to full-time job offers. The goal is to gain exposure to a merchandiser’s hands-on duties while establishing a professional network.

Step 4: Develop technical skills

Proficiency in software tools like Photoshop, Excel, and other relevant merchandising software can set you apart from other candidates. Learning to analyze sales data and understand market trends are also invaluable skills.

Step 5: Apply for merchandising jobs

Upon accomplishing the above steps, you can now begin to apply for jobs. Look for entry-level positions that match your qualifications and interests, like assistant merchandiser or merchandising associate. Remember to tailor your resume and cover letter to each job application, highlighting your relevant skills and experiences.

How much do merchandisers make?

The income of merchandisers can vary significantly based on numerous factors, including the type of merchandise they handle, the industry they work in, their level of experience, geographic location, and the size of the company they work for. Those in fashion, technology, or luxury goods often command higher wages due to the higher value of the products and the need for specialized merchandising skills.

Experience is a crucial factor; senior merchandisers with a strong track record of success in sales and product placement typically earn more than their entry-level counterparts. Geographic location also influences salaries, with professionals in large urban centers or regions with a high cost of living usually earning more than those in other areas. Additionally, merchandisers who work for large national or international retail chains can earn more than those at smaller, local stores due to the scale and profitability of the businesses.

Highest paying industries

  • Wholesale Electronic Markets and Agents and Brokers: $59,000
  • Management of Companies and Enterprises: $57,000
  • Apparel Manufacturing: $55,000
  • General Merchandise Stores: $53,000
  • Grocery and Related Product Merchant Wholesalers: $52,000

Highest paying states

  • New York: $65,000
  • California: $63,000
  • New Jersey: $60,000
  • Washington: $58,000
  • Illinois: $56,000

Browse merchandiser salary data by market

Types of merchandisers

Below, we explore common career types and areas of specialization for merchandisers. The goal of this section is to give you a broad overview of the different career options available.

Visual merchandiser

Visual merchandisers play a crucial role in creating enjoyable customer shopping experiences. Their tasks include designing window displays, arranging in-store merchandise, and coordinating promotional activities aligned with a brand’s aesthetic or a specific marketing campaign. Their efficient display strategies not only attract customers but also give a visual representation of the brand’s identity.

Retail merchandiser

Retail merchandisers perform a mix of creative, technical, and operational tasks to optimize sales for retail businesses. They are responsible for planning and monitoring inventory, managing the purchase of new products, and collaborating with suppliers. Using their understanding of their target audience’s preferences, they help select products that will best appeal to customers and boost sales.

Fashion merchandiser

Fashion merchandisers bridge the gap between the worlds of fashion design and retail. They manage the selection and presentation of fashion items and accessories in stores, both physically and online. Along with an excellent sense of style, fashion merchandisers must possess a deep understanding of fashion trends, consumer behavior, and marketing strategies to be successful in this role.

E-commerce merchandiser

E-commerce merchandisers are responsible for planning and executing effective online merchandising strategies. Their tasks may include managing product listings, overseeing online inventory, and implementing promotional activities for an online store. They also analyze customer behavior data and sales figures to make strategic decisions about what products to feature and how to best present them on a website or an app.

Top skills for merchandisers

This career guide section outlines the skills and abilities that lead to success as a merchandiser.

Analytical thinking

Strong analytical skills are key to a career in merchandising. Interpreting sales data, tracking inventory, and forecasting future product needs requires an ability to analyze complex information and make informed decisions based on the results.

Communication skills

It’s important to articulate thoughts, ideas, and plans effectively. You’ll work with store managers, suppliers, and marketing teams; communicating with these diverse groups is vital. You must be able to negotiate and converse effectively to ensure a smooth workflow.


In merchandising, an eye for detail is valuable. You’ll need to remember product details, monitor tiny fluctuations in sales patterns, and notice subtle differences in product quality – precision that can greatly influence the product’s success in the market.


These professionals need artistic talent to consistently introduce and maintain appealing and innovative product displays that engage consumers. Creativity will allow you to stay ahead of trends and meet changing consumer demands effectively.

Commercial awareness

A comprehensive market understanding, including competitors, trends, and customer behaviors, is vital. This awareness can help you make educated decisions about product selection, pricing, and promotional strategies, ultimately contributing to a business’s profitability.

Merchandiser career path options

As a merchandiser, the retail industry offers substantial career advancement opportunities. One option is to take on specialized or managerial roles within merchandising itself as a senior merchandiser or merchandising manager.

With experience, you can pursue advanced opportunities that involve overseeing multiple stores or working in a strategic capacity. Roles like retail operations manager, buying manager, or head of retail are all possible career destinations. These positions provide exposure to the strategy and planning that shape how the company or its departments operate.

Alternatively, you may want to leverage your merchandising experience outside of the retail sector. With the transferable skills you’ve gained, such as stock management and visual marketing, there are possibilities in a wide range of industries. For example, careers in advertising, marketing, or PR could be enticing, involving roles such as account executive, PR specialist, or marketing strategist.

Technological innovations like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) are transforming the way merchandisers work. The adoption of these technologies enhances the efficiency and effectiveness of visual merchandising, allowing professionals in the field to design and present compelling product displays without the constraints of physical space. Innovations in technology are also creating opportunities for more personalized customer experiences, which merchandisers are tapping into to boost sales and enhance brand connection.

The use of data analytics is another major trend influencing this field. Detailed consumer data allows these professionals to tailor their strategies to fit specific target audiences, thereby driving sales and customer loyalty. Analytics can also help identify trends and forecast future sales, enabling retailers to stock their stores more effectively.

Employment projections

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the overall employment of retail sales workers, which includes merchandisers, is projected to remain flat through the next decade. Despite this, the demand for skilled merchandisers who can leverage technology and data to drive sales is growing.

Merchandiser career tips

Develop practical knowledge of the merchandise

Product knowledge, which includes understanding the features, target audience, and potential selling points, is vital. It can help you effectively decide how, when, and where to display the product to attract customers.

Be visually aware

Creativity and an eye for detail are essential in this role. Use these skills to create visually appealing displays that capture the interest of potential buyers. Additionally, understanding color schemes, spacing, and design principles can enhance the look of your displays, ultimately contributing to sales.

Improve negotiation skills

Building solid relationships with suppliers and store managers is key in merchandising. To create a win-win environment, you must be able to communicate effectively, demonstrate the value of your proposal, understand the other party’s needs, and offer creative solutions.

Build a professional network

Joining professional networks expands access to potential contacts and new business opportunities. Relevant networks include:

  • Association for Retail Environments
  • National Association of Chain Drug Stores
  • American Marketing Association

Continuous learning

The field of merchandising is continuously changing, with new trends and technologies emerging regularly. It is important to remain updated. Here are a few suggestions for continuous learning:

  • Take courses on visual merchandising and retail design
  • Attend retail trade shows and seminars

Pursue relevant certifications

Gaining a certification like the Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) offered by the Institute for Supply Management can add to your credibility. Certifications validate your knowledge and skills, making you stand out among other professionals in your field.

Where the merchandiser jobs are

Top employers

  • PepsiCo Inc.
  • Coca Cola Company
  • Dr. Pepper Snapple Group
  • Mondelez International
  • Frito-Lay

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • ZipRecruiter
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster


What does a typical day look like for a merchandiser?

Merchandisers generally start their day by checking their schedule and planning their route to the stores they service. Once on-site, they restock shelves, arrange and set up displays, prepare signage, engage with store managers to negotiate product placement, check inventory, and report on store activities.

Do I need a specific educational background to be a merchandiser?

Typically, a high school diploma is enough to get started in this field. However, having a degree in business, marketing, fashion merchandising, or a related field may enhance your job prospects and offer more advanced positions. In addition to formal education, employers often value on-the-job experience and look for individuals with strong organizational, communication, and negotiation skills.

Which industries commonly employ merchandisers?

Retailers, wholesalers, supermarkets, department stores, and convenience stores are common employers of merchandisers. They are also needed in industries dealing with fashion, beauty products, electronics, and home goods.

What skills are necessary for success as a merchandiser?

Excellent organizational skills, ability to prioritize tasks, sound decision-making abilities, and strong negotiation skills. Merchandisers should also be proficient in using technology for inventory management and data recording, demonstrate attention to detail, and have excellent time management skills. An ability to work independently and problem-solving skills are also vital for success in this field.

What are the physical demands in merchandising?

The role often requires frequent movement, including bending, lifting, and standing for extended periods. Merchandisers may need to lift or move heavy boxes, use ladders, arrange products on shelves, and physically move around stores for most of the day. This role may not be suitable for individuals with certain physical limitations or restrictions.

Is travel a frequent requirement for merchandisers?

Travel is often a part of this job, as the profession typically involves visiting multiple retail locations throughout the day. The scope of travel can vary greatly: some in the role may only service stores within a local or regional area. In contrast, others might have national territories, requiring them to travel more extensively. Depending on the specific job, a valid driver’s license may be required.

Do merchandisers work standard hours?

Hours could be variable depending on the industry and client needs. In some cases, merchandisers may have to work during store off-hours, like early mornings or late evenings. Weekend or holiday work may also be required, especially during busy retail periods. Time management skills are imperative to succeed in this role.

What types of technology or software are typically used in merchandising?

Common tools may include handheld scanning devices for inventory control, tablets or smartphones for recording data and communicating with superiors, and programs for designing product placement layouts. Software competence, especially in inventory management and data reporting, could be a key requirement by employers.