Understanding Retail Merchandisers and Their Role in Sales and Supply
Have you ever walked into a retail store and noticed a beautiful, eye-catching display with products expertly-stacked and arranged? You most likely have a merchandiser to thank for that.
Merchandisers are behind nearly every decision that goes into what a shopper sees, feels, hears, and smells when they walk into a retail environment, whether they’re aware of it or not. Notice a mannequin dressed in a trendy, in-season outfit? A merchandiser did that. Impressed by the American flag display made of beer cases? A merchandiser did that. Relieved that your favorite cereal was fully-stocked and on sale? That, too, was the work of a merchandiser.
What is a Merchandiser?
The role of merchandising extends beyond creating visual displays and promotions. At its core, merchandising is understanding and influencing how your product comes across to shoppers in a retail setting, which ultimately impacts awareness, sales, and loyalty.
With grocery and food items accounting for over 70% of impulse buys, it’s crucial to have products stocked and well-displayed. Shoppers are less likely to purchase a product—even a familiar one—if the shelf looks disorganized (or if the item simply isn’t there). By positioning products in a manner that’s appealing, accessible, and attractive, merchandisers can boost sales and increase profit margins.
Key Responsibilities of A Merchandiser
Merchandising jobs vary based on company, position, and even season, but many of the key responsibilities remain the same. These include:
- Completing store audits to ensure planogram and promotion compliance
- Collaborating with suppliers and manufacturers to develop merchandising strategies
- Moving cases from the backroom to the sales floor
- Creating sales and inventory reports
- Gathering information on market trends and customer sentiment
- Rotating products and removing defective and out-of-date products
- Assisting in the assembling and disassembling of promotional materials
Types of Merchandising
With the introduction of eCommerce, online merchandising emerged, catering to nearly $900 million in online sales each year. Online merchandising has the same objectives as in-store merchandising, but may include different tasks—like ensuring accurate product descriptions and building user-friendly digital catalogs.
One form of a product demo is the food samples at Costco. The people at these booths are most likely merchandisers, offering samples of new products. Product demos can also include manufacturers sending merchandisers to stores like Best Buy to demonstrate a new cell phone or gaming system.
For most people, there are four seasons. But for merchandisers, there can be as many as 13. Retailers like Target, Anthropologie, and even Walgreens, will change up their visual product displays to coincide with relevant events and holidays—including everything from Halloween to cold and flu season.
Resets are huge display change-outs, where the entire stock is taken down and replaced. Since resets are such a big undertaking, they are usually rolled out over a long period throughout an entire region.
Creating a Successful Merchandising Strategy
A successful merchandising strategy should include implementing actionable customer data and feedback paired with tried-and-true retail strategies. Many merchandisers follow a program that adheres to the “Five R’s of Retail Merchandising,” which is presenting the right product, in the right quantity, at the right time, in the right place, and at the right price.
These five benchmarks ensure that a merchandiser is presenting products in an optimum way to gain attention and leverage sales. Other benchmarks of a successful merchandising strategy may include:
- Consistency: Are shelves consistently stocked with the right products?
- Creativity: How creative and visually appealing are displays? Do they catch the attention of shoppers?
- Agility: How easily can you adapt to seasonality, trends, and market demand? (During the height of COVID lockdown, there was a 167% increase in demand for top-half apparel categories—a massive opportunity for merchandisers in both the online and in-store environments).
What Are Ideal Merchandiser Skills?
An ideal merchandiser has many of the skills needed for marketing, sales, and analysis, but combines them into one role along with other valuable traits, including:
- Ambition: Much of merchandising requires driving across a region to complete store audits.
- Attention to detail: Setting up displays and following planograms requires a keen eye for detail to maximize consistency and customer experience.
- Market Awareness: Being able to understand and apply recent trends and sales figures is crucial in stocking and display strategies.
- Retail Tech Familiarity: Seeking out ways to increase efficiency across locations should be a key part of a merchandiser’s job. Intuitive retail technology, like the FORM MarketX mobile app, can help merchandisers streamline in-store execution and verify merchandising and displays with real-time photo proof.
Making The Most of Merchandising
While shoppers may only see them stocking shelves, merchandisers have a valuable role in the retail environment. By ensuring that a manufacturer’s products are properly and attractively displayed, merchandisers can help them sell and succeed.
Even if you don’t have your own team of merchandisers, you can still accomplish proper merchandising with third-party retail support. FORM has partnered with retail service Customer Impact to deploy qualified retail specialists to complete market execution and merchandising tasks for brands and retailers. Customer Impact reps use FORM’s leading mobile solution to deliver valuable insights into merchandising, market share, and more.
FORM MarketX is the leading retail mobile app that helps merchandisers and retail teams track execution, distribute tasks, and ensure compliance at every store. See it all in action here.