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Merchandising

Merchandisers manage the image and displays of specific brands in stores.  Retailers use merchandising to promote specific products and services and to increase sales. Stores work to have you come into the store through signs and appealing displays in their windows, and once in the store, direct you to certain products all by the way they are positioned and displayed. This is the work of merchandisers whose job is to work with retail stores to sell their products.  Merchandisers can deliver educational materials to stores for training new employees or teaching sales tactics to existing workers. They also conduct inventory reports -counting the merchandise at a particular location – and replace old or defective stock.

Some stores have their own merchandising departments, others use third-party companies to handle merchandising certain displays. If you are employed by one of these companies you will need your own reliable transportation to get you to and from each location. You’ll travel from store to store setting up displays, doing reports and talking with employees.

Alumnus Danny Lopresti (2012) is a merchandiser in the liquor industry.

Dan PicWhat is your job?

I am currently a Wine & Spirits Merchandiser for Diageo. Diageo is one of the biggest liquor distribution companies in the world.  As a merchandiser, my role is to make sure our products have the best displays and visibility in each and every one of my stores in my territories.

What is the broader field of industry in which this work exists?

Sales and marketing and, of course, the liquor industry.

What, in general, do you do as part of this job?

I am responsible for servicing accounts in Monmouth and Ocean County ( I live and work in New Jersey). Each month we are given goals to achieve in these accounts. For example, this month we have to make 20 displays for Johnnie Walker, 15 displays for Ciroc Vodka, etc. My company creates various display pieces that we incorporate into both simple and mass displays for our accounts. The goal is to drive brand visibility which ultimately should lead to an increase in sales. We also design booth/table space and decor installations at trade shows and sales meetings. So if there is a new flavor of Captain Morgan Rum coming out, typically the distributor will hold a “launch-party” where the new product will be served. My co-workers and I are responsible for setting up those parties and facilitating the events.

What are the pros and cons of this kind of job?

PROS: I work in an industry that requires you to interact with people from all walks of life. One account owner that I met actually grew up in the same neighborhood in Brooklyn that I did! (30 years prior to me even being born, but we still knew the same great restaurants!)

The goal in this industry is simply to make money and grow your business. I feel a lot of satisfaction in the work that I do knowing that the displays I create and the work I put in will ultimately increase sales for the accounts I service and my company as well. I take pride knowing that my work is having a direct impact on the growth of my company. There is also tremendous opportunity for growth as well.

CONS: If you don’t like traveling, this job isn’t for you. Fortunately I do enjoy traveling and typically I drive anywhere from 600-800 miles per week so it’s very much enjoyable for me.

What skills did you learn as an English major that you use in this job? 

Many of the courses I took as an English major required group projects. As a result I was often required to work with several people to try to write a lengthy  paper or create a presentation. Without realizing this at the time, I learned skills such as the ability to compromise with others and articulate my own thoughts to a group of people. These skills can take you a long way in life, especially in my industry which requires impeccable communication skills if you want to be successful. I am constantly trying to “sell” myself to accounts because they are not always interested in having display pieces in their stores. I try to be as personable and professional as possible and I believe that if the account owners feel comfortable working with me, they will allow me to do my job. You would be surprised how many store owners refuse to have me install displays even though the purpose of the displays is to help increase sales. If and when they do refuse, I have to then articulate how I can help them without inconveniencing their store operations. As well spoken as I am, being handsome doesn’t hurt either.

How have you learned to do this job? 

The only way to do this job well is by trial and error. You have to be able to accept rejection. If someone doesn’t want you to be in their store, you must follow-up the next week or month. You have to have a thick skin and make people believe in the products you are supplying. It took me a couple of months to really gain the trust of store owners to know that I can do a good job and help increase their sales.

How did you get this job? 

I know this is a cliché but life truly is unpredictable. After graduating from John Jay in 2012, I was accepted into the New Jersey State Police Academy. The NJSP was hiring around the time of my graduation so I thought it was the opportunity of a lifetime. While I was attending John Jay, I was unsure of what I wanted to pursue as a career but I was always interested in law enforcement. Subsequently I fractured my wrist while in the academy in the 7th week of training and was medically discharged. Although I had the option of re-entering the academy the following year, it was simply too much of a gamble financially for me to pursue. Long story short, I moved out to New Jersey from Brooklyn and found a job on Craigslist to be a Warehouse Manager for Diageo. I never knew anyone who worked in the liquor industry before and had no idea what to expect, but I went for it anyway. After seven months I was promoted to Merchandiser and that’s where I am today.

For current students interested in this line of work, do you have any recommendations on what they can do now to start directing their career path?

My best pieces of advice is to network as much as possible and be easy to work with. In terms of networking I must say that I have built several good relationships with people in management that I know will benefit me in the long run. In some cases it’s not what you know, but WHO you know. In regards to being someone who is easy to work with, you never know who you’re going to work for or with, so always maintain a professional relationship with your co-workers. That co-worker you were rude to may be your boss some day so keep that in mind! This is particularly relevant to interviews because you may be in a situation where you lack experience for a position, but if the potential employer feels that you are personable and competent then you may be hired regardless.