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Merchandising 101

Steady, Well-Paying, and with Flexible Hours

Merchandising is one of the steadiest and best paying of all jobs related to Mystery Shopping.


Merchandising 101
Steady, Flexible, Fun, & Profitable

Merchandising is one of the steadiest and best paying of all jobs related to Mystery Shopping. While you may not view it as being as glamorous or exciting as Mystery Shopping, merchandising still pays very well, and will keep you busy with about as many hours as you'd like to commit to.

In a nutshell, merchandising is a job where you are responsible for going to a store and maintaining a manufacturer's line of products. Basically the goal is to present products in their best light to generate more sales. You're doing this so that the store can sell more of this manufacturer's product without having to hire its own people to keep the displays up. Merchandising covers virtually all manufacturers in popular retail stores, with some of the industries covered including: electronics, clothes, groceries, home and garden items, toys, auto parts, and many, many more - and it is not just the large chains either!

And what does being "responsible" really mean? It's a lot less threatening, and a breeze to perform, than you might think. Here are the types of activities you'll perform while on a merchandising assignment.

  • Straighten displays
  • Set up "cross-merchandising" displays (placing related products near each other to encourage impulse buys)
  • Take inventory of what's on the shelves and in stock
  • Replenish shelves from stock
  • Assemble promotional displays, and replenish them
  • Attach coupon displays
  • Set up and demonstrate a products desirability, or taste
  • Outdoor Sign and Banner Placement
  • Brochure Placement
  • Assemble Equipment/product-if needed
  • Reorders
  • Product Recalls
  • Take an inventory count
The great thing is, while merchandising work pays well (from $9-$20/hr), it is also a much in demand service so you can do it as often as you like, and do it on your own schedule (within time ranges). Plus, merchandising is not at all difficult physically or mentally, so it's the type of assignment that works well for people of all ages and situations.

Most merchandising assignments take between one to three hours from start to finish. Some assignments, depending on the number of products and the display requirements, may take longer to do, but that's OK, because in most cases you're being paid hourly for your work.

Do I need to dress professionally?
You do not wear a suit and tie but your dress should be neat and clean. Think of it as casual professional! However, you should not wear your best clothes because some product set ups require you to work on the floor where you may get dusty. The merchandising company may also provide you with a detailed dress code to follow. In addition to dressing professionally you should also conduct yourself professionally. This means that you should demonstrate the values of your company, practice good time management and organization skills, and complete your paperwork in a prompt manner.

Why are merchandising jobs important?
Your activities as a merchandiser are vital to a store's ability to sell a manufacturer's products. You'll be assuring the proper placement of appealing stand-ups and signs, and organizing the shelves be sure products are neatly placed. You'll set out and replenish brochures and coupons so that customers will pick them up and use them in the purchase of the product. And, you'll ensure that the right products are out on the sales floor in just the right quantities to have maximum appeal to shoppers.

And think of how important it is when you shop, that you see only the freshest and more recent product. It's a merchandiser who scours the display area for old or defective stock, and to make sure the latest sale pricing is visible.

If you're a more experienced merchandiser who's had a chance to work with a particular manufacturer for a while, you may even be called upon to provide advice to the store's salespeople or management, so that they can better sell the product.

And if you think these activities mostly benefit the shopper and the store, think again. To the manufacturer, finding a hard worker like you will be like striking gold. That's because you'll become their frontline "face" on their product. You'll be the one establishing positive and friendly relations with store management. You'll be the one who is in touch with what's going on, and able to secure enhanced placement for products when it becomes available. And with a little more time, who knows how influential you'll become within your local retail area!

Suffice it to say that merchandising is often a first step for good people into an even better career-if they want it. If not, it's one of the best paying jobs out there that allows you to work at your own pace, on your own schedule, and at the places you choose. It's great flexibility!

What is the experience of the average shopper who tries merchandising? For most people that take merchandising assignments, you'll be working at a medium-size retailer, on up to the local stores for large chains. People like supermarkets and drug stores, and even mass merchants like Target, Wal-Mart, or Linens & Things.

From the accounts of many of our shoppers who perform merchandising assignments, the one constant theme is the variety of work that's available.

While one morning you could be refilling coupon holders on shelves for a tomato soup brand then auditing their stock on hand, by that afternoon you could be placing new releases of a popular music CD in a drugstore. The next day may involve visiting a children's clothing retailer and changing out an old shelf display with a new organization scheme that features the latest Seasonal fashions in combination stand-up color displays featuring coupon offers. Still another assignment may have you checking a giant retailer to make sure competitor's products are not prominently featured, as it's stated in the manufacturer's contract, while your promotion is in swing-if there's a violation, it's off to the store manager's office for a quick meeting and an educational briefing for the floor stockers.

From stocking to displays, and auditing to competitive evaluation, there's never a dull moment for shoppers that take a merchandising assignment. And the great thing is, you decide which types of merchandising engagements you enjoy most, and go on as many as you like.

You'll also discover what type of stores you like working for best, because retailers and manufacturers come in all shapes and sizes. You can count on any retailer that has multiple stores needing to be serviced by merchandisers. Even mom and pop stores need merchandisers to keep their aisles fresh and their products appealing. It won't take long for you to discover which assignments suit you best, and will provide you with a great source of extra income.

What is the pay like? The pay depends on many things, including your experience, the type of assignment you're going on, the location of the stores, and whether or not you perform merchandising assignments on a full or part time basis.

The industry standard is for a manufacturer or merchandising company to pay you either an hourly wage which can range from $8-$9 per hour to upwards of $15-$20 per hour or a flat-rate for the job, which could be from $10 to $25 per job. The latter option is more like the pay of a mystery shopping job, where the result is what counts whether it takes you five minutes or 50.

While mystery shoppers don't get paid for mileage, merchandisers often do. That's why many shoppers we talk to will schedule a mystery shop near their merchandising assignments, so that they get paid for mileage to make the trip and still get the best of both worlds.

Once you begin working on merchandising assignments, they will often turn into very regular work, as long as you do a good job, are reliable, and flexible. Again, you'll be in control of your own schedule, within dates and time ranges that the manufacturer will give you.

A side benefit of this regular work is that the company may want to hire you as an employee, and possibly make you eligible for health benefits. In contrast to mystery shoppers, who are almost always independent contractors, this can be a great additional reason for getting into regular merchandising work.

Should I do mystery shopping or merchandising?
Why not do both? In a way they're two sides of the same coin. On one hand, you're visiting a retail establishment to check out how well they sell products and provide service. On the other side, you're organizing a part of that retail establishment to appeal to consumers and encourage their purchase of the products you're assigned to handle. So really, mystery shopping and merchandising are the ideal balancing assignments that will give you the maximum amount of perspective for each side. Also, you are often reimbursed for mileage as a merchandiser and this can help if you combine your merchandising jobs with your mystery shops!

Companies and schedulers who are hiring for both sides, love to see shoppers who have experience each way. This makes you, to their eyes, a more well-rounded and perceptive shopper and merchandiser. Even better, from your perspective, mystery shopping and merchandising are a great complement in terms of your schedule. While both are flexible, the merchandising will be very regular, and the mystery shopping can fill in the gaps.

Another consideration is that merchandising tends to be more activity related and physical (while not physically taxing, you are physically active). Merchandisers will also need to do less paperwork, and little evaluation. While mystery shoppers have more of a psychological and mental burden, as they have a checklist of responsibilities that require initiation, evaluation, and emotional stability. Mystery shoppers will spend much more time filling out forms and reports and writing impressions.

Either way, each has its unique appeals and they are a great complement from the perspective of potential employers and for you.

Do I have a lot of administrative responsibilities while merchandising?
One appealing factor in merchandising assignments is that there is minimal administrative work. Other than managing your schedule, picking up products and keeping an occasional audit, you're really not going to have to be doing a lot of paperwork. It is important to understand that, unlike mystery shopping, in most cases you cannot take friends, relatives or children with you on merchandising assignments. But that's just one trade-off in the column of comparisons you can make. Being highly efficient at merchandising will allow you to be paid well, and still have lots of time for your family and friends. It's a great quality of life job!

Are there other restrictions I should be aware of?
There are a few more, most of them related to your physical capabilities. Since you are restocking shelves, setting up displays and generally being on your feet for hours at a time, you must be physically capable to perform these duties. Still, most people should have no problem. If you can walk for a few hours, bend and kneel, and lift 10-50 pound boxes and packages (don't forget: a back brace can be a super payoff as an addition to your job wardrobe!) then you'll be fine in most merchandising engagements.

If there are unique or unusual physical requirements, these will always be disclosed.

These sound like good assignments, but are they available?
You'd be surprised how the demand for merchandisers has grown through the years. Retailing is a gigantic multi-billion dollar a month industry, and the need for your services as a merchandiser are great! Most shoppers find that they could work virtually any day-and every day-if that's what they want to do.

Know someone that needs a job? Getting into merchandising is a great way to make a fair wage and still enjoy a fun, flexible lifestyle.


In-Store Merchandising

  • Install POP and End-cap displays
  • Replenish coupons, stickers and display materials
  • Update displays
Store Management
  • Help to communicate excitement and enthusiasm with store personnel
  • Answer questions and fill requests
  • Solve challenges for the store related to your products
  • Keep inventory
  • Perform Audits
  • Submit reports on schedule
Store Demos and Vendor Days
  • Perform in-store demos featuring manufacturer products and services
  • Attend trade shows and special events to represent manufacturer
In-Store Training
  • Train store sales staff on features and benefits of manufacturer products and services
  • Provide product usage training and keep staff up to date on coming promotions
  • Educate staff on manufacturer's policies and procedures for service, warranties and refunds
  • Department Stores
  • Grocery Stores
  • Gas/Convenience Stores
  • Pet Supply Retailers
  • Computer Superstores
  • Mass Merchants
  • Bank Branches
  • Clothing Stores
  • Toy Stores
  • Music Stores
  • Office Supply Stores
  • Phone Service Retailers
  • Drug Stores
  • And many, many more!

Resource: ShadowShopper

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