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Retail Greatness Blog

Are  You a Master Merchandiser or a Shelf Stocker?

I saw the joke below the other day, and it caused me to think about why some merchandisers fail in this business:

"A famous merchandising tycoon told the following story at a conference:

'There was town out in the Old west that had two general stores. Harry, who owned one of them was a workaholic. He opened early, stayed in the store all day and closed late. Even so, he barely made a living.

Larry, who ran the other store, came in at nine. At ten he went out back where he kept some cattle, and made all the cows turn and face north. After lunch, Larry went out back again and made all the cows turn and face south. This practice was repeated every day

Larry's store was successful and he became wealthy.'

Are  You a Master Merchandiser or a Shelf Stocker?

The speaker then asked his audience if anyone could tell what principle of merchandising was illustrated by the story. A guy in the back stood up and said, 'That's easy. The point is if you want to be successful in merchandising, it is important to rotate your stock!' "

So, do merchandisers fail because they don't rotate stock? Well, yes, but that's not the only reason. You've got to know how to do the COMPLETE job. And execute each and every time.

In short, you must become a Master Merchandiser. What's a Master Merchandiser? Read on...

It doesn't matter how great the promotional tactics that you use to attract customers are if your products are constantly understocked. On the other hand, your stocking prowess can be excellent, but if your reps aren't doing all they can to improve store sales, your client might seek merchandising help elsewhere.

Remember, they're in the job of getting people into their brick-and-mortar, compelling them to look around, and convincing them to leave with a purchase. If you're not working hand-in-hand with store management to optimize shelf and floor space – LOOK OUT!

Understanding how stocking and merchandising work together is key to staying upright in this business.

Stocking is the process of filling store shelves and displays with merchandise. Basically, it's replenishment to avoid poor shopper impressions, and disappointment from a lack of availability of their favorite brands. It's a task that doesn't require more than some basic skills. While there may be a certain art to efficiently facing shelves and displays, it should be the least challenging task for merchandisers.

However, product selection/display and supply chain management are the hallmarks of great merchandising. Any given field merchandiser may or may not have authority to help select the optimal product mix for the store, the shelf position of each item, and the location and building of attractive displays and signage. However, a true merchandiser uses any authority given to work with what is there (or what s/he can influence to be there) in order to  make every display as compelling as possible. Merchandising also necessarily helps clients create and execute special promotions and pricing.  

You may be thinking that you (and/or your team) have no authority to do anything but fill shelf holes, and that may be true in some, most, or all cases. But to the extent possible, you're on the front lines of battle for share of wallet and the better you become at helping retailers and manufacturers to benefit from shoppers' open wallets, the more valuable you become to the industry. First learn what can be done, then attempt to get permission to make small incremental changes. Anything  you accomplish from a cross-merchandised product, to an extra facing, to a successful new product cut-in, and more improves the supply chain and ultimately your wallet as well.

Just as important is the ability to manage inventory through a mobile-enabled workforce that feeds information in real time to procurement specialists, who work to ensure the supply chain feeds client demands with the right product at the right time in the right store. If you're in a position to influence how your technology is leveraged, leverage it to train shelf-stockers to become true merchandisers. If you don't know how to do that, reach out to us and we'll be happy to help you.

Merchandisers must clearly understand store promotion plans and how promoted merchandise should be displayed before stocking even takes place. When done effectively, merchandising acts like a "silent salesperson," drawing customers to merchandise and persuading them visually to purchase. So, sure the shelves need to look full, but the successful merchandiser also knows which products to put there, and knows how to make sure inventory is managed to avoid stockouts.

Shelves should be stocked with the best sellers, and promotions should be set up to easily compel shoppers to buy. Products should be well-organized, clearly tagged, and faced constantly. You can be assured of a long career in merchandising if you can master ALL of these responsibilities and persuade shoppers to buy from your clients.

And don't forget to turn your cows!

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Topics: retail sales skills merchandising skills cross-merchandising incremental space