Merchandise Associate Job Description
Merchandise associates use their people skills to match customers with products, answer questions, and collaborate with sales associates to sell more merchandise. They understand the day-to-day operations of both the sales floor and the warehouse, and work face-to-face with the public and behind the scenes to create a smooth shopping experience. Merchandise associates work full- or part-time hours, and often work on holidays, nights, and weekends. This is usually an entry-level position that requires no formal education or special training, though past work experience may provide the skills needed for this job.
Merchandise Associate Duties and Responsibilities
Merchandise associates are responsible for providing a seamless shopping experience. Duties assigned to them include:
Stock the Sales Floor
Merchandise associates are often the first people in the store to see the available merchandise. They take products from the storeroom or unload new items from a delivery truck and put them out on the sales floor for customers to purchase.
Apply Sales Tags
Merchandise associates prepare items for purchase by scanning new products into the store’s inventory system and applying appropriate sales tags to items.
A successful merchandise associate knows where every product should be shelved and displayed in the store.
Straighten Sales Floor and Restock Shelves
Part of a merchandise associate’s duties include restocking shelves and putting unsold merchandise back on the sales floor for potential buyers to see. This keeps the sales floor looking neat and appealing to customers at all times.
Assemble Product Displays
The merchandise associate puts popular and sale items out for display. This may include dressing mannequins and putting sales displays in store windows.
Merchandise Associate Skills and Qualifications
When hiring merchandise associates, employers look for people who have the following skills and abilities:
- Customer service – because merchandise associates work closely with products, they may answer customer questions, point customers toward specific merchandise, and help customers find certain products. They should come across as friendly, professional, and helpful
- Sales experience – the ultimate goal of any retail environment is to sell products, and merchandise associates are an integral part of the sales team. They’re experts on the products in the store and use their knowledge to steer customers toward certain items and products they’re interested in buying
- Cashier duties – merchandise associates must be able to perform any job on the sales floor, as they may cover for sales associates on break or jump in to ring up customers when the sales floor is particularly busy
- Computer knowledge – most stores use fully computerized systems to track inventory, sales, and other essential information regarding store merchandise, so merchandise associates need basic computer and electronic skills to handle scanning equipment, pricing materials, inventory systems, and cash registers
- Communication skills – merchandise associates coordinate with sales and warehouse associates to make sure products flow easily from the warehouse to the sales staff, which takes good communication and strong interpersonal skills
Tools of the Trade
In addition to cash registers, telephones, and general office equipment, merchandise associates also work regularly with the following:
- Pricing tools (price guns, price tags, inventory scanners)
- Retail display items (mannequins, hangers, clothes racks)
- Clothing folding boards
Merchandise Associate Education and Training
No specialized education or certification is needed to become a merchandise associate, though prior work experience in customer service or sales is highly beneficial. Merchandise associates receive on-the-job training, but there is no standardized program and many of the skills used in this career path are learned through performing the work itself.
Merchandise Associate Salary and Outlook
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, retail sales workers, including merchandise associates,earn around $11.01 per hour, or around $22,900 annually. This job is projected to grow by 2 percent annually through 2026, which is slower than the national average.
Benefits such as health insurance, continuing education, and paid vacation leave may or may not be provided to merchandise associates depending on the employer. More experienced merchandise associates have a higher chance of finding jobs with large retailers who are more likely to provide benefits and job perks. Some companies may even provide stock options and profit-sharing for long-term merchandise associates.
Learn how to become a professional merchandise associate and pick up a few skills and tricks that will wow employers with these helpful resources:
National Retail Federation – the NRF is dedicated to professional retailers at every level, representing the interests of more than 42 million working Americans as well as retail stores both big and small, including internet retailers. Its website provides resources, job information, industry news, and retail event information
How to Be a GREAT Salesperson… by Monday Morning! – author Dave Cook has been a retail professional for decades and a sales trainer for the past 10 years. His book is for salespeople of all types who want to learn how to connect with customers and get into the sales industry. The book also covers information useful for managers, which is especially helpful for those required to collaborate with other retail employees
Retail Industry Leaders Association – RILA provides legal and financial resources for retailers, as well as in-depth reports on energy, sustainability, and other factors that impact the industry
Sell Something: Principles and Perspectives for Engaged Retail Salespeople – author Peter Smith approaches retail selling from various angles, addressing all aspects of making a sale and offering tips on body language, using humor, and developing long-term clients
Salesforce Blog – Salesforce creates apps designed for sales, customer service, and other aspects of the retail industry. The company’s blog offers content about sales trends, marketing, and connecting with customers. It’s also full of inspiring real stories and other useful tidbits of information for retail professionals at every level
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