I worked as a Retail Merchandiser all through college. After college I fell back into merchandising when jobs were scarce, but the merchandising business seemed to be booming.
What is merchandising and what does a merchandiser do?
“What does the role of merchandiser involve?
Merchandising is about planning and developing a strategy to enable a company to sell a range of products that delivers sales and profit targets. A Merchandiser will work closely with a Buyer to ensure the product that’s bought will enable them to achieve the sales plan.”
~ from Retail Human Resources
I made this occupation work for me on a full-time basis by double dipping. I would sign in the Vendor Log at the Front Desk of whichever big box retailer I was working in that day and skim the book for new company leads. The sign in sheets usually had contact information for the main office and I would simply call and let them know I was available to work that store for them if they ever needed someone. Since I had been doing this for so long, sometimes there were notes attached to my sign in sheet asking me if I was available to pick up extra lines in that location. I made a nice income by combining the number of companies I worked for in each store. Most of them paid my mileage and some companies even provided a monthly car allowance.
If you are currently working as a Retail Merchandiser and reading this, I strongly advise you to start double dipping. You are part-time and hired at-will. What you do with your spare time is none of their business. If they try to coerce you into signing a non-compete, tell them NO.
After I had been in the industry for many years I took a step up and became an Area Manager. I managed seven states with about 100 part-time merchandisers. I advised each of my merchandisers to do what I had done and combine their efforts by taking on other companies. I was interested in seeing them excel in the business and eventually move into management the way I had.
This was also the time I got to take a look at the bloated behavior going on at the corporate level.
Here I was riding in the back of a limo on my way to the airport, while on the phone with a merchandiser in Podunk, America, telling her/him that the company can only afford to pay them $6 per hour. I remember sitting at the overpriced dinner table listening to a bunch of cheap suited bosses talk about test driving a Jaguar just so they could get a free Mont Blanc pen. We stayed in the finest hotels, ate steak and lobster every meal and one meeting we even had a high school marching band parade through and entertain us. One training about 200 of us stayed at the Woodlands Golf Resort for two weeks! Can you imagine that bill? And yet, we could only afford to pay a merchandiser $6 per hour?
I wasn’t a manager for very long.
I was an Area Manager long enough to win the monetary award for Highest Execution for my territory. That only took about 3 years. Then I jumped ship and landed a national position as a Recruiting Manager. That was the job that spanked my bacon for me.
I got fired.
To be fair to the douchebag that hired me, it was inevitable. I naively boasted having a database with the names and numbers of part-time merchandisers all over the USA, including Hawaii and Alaska. This database was what got me the overpaid job in management. Once I had been employed for the cursory three months I was told I HAD to share my database with the rest of the company, or be fired. Stupidly, I believed them and I shared. A week later I was fired in a Florida airport by my supervisor. He met me at my gate, handed me my walking papers, feigned remorse and sorrow and then told me I was on my own to book a flight back home that same day. According to him, my position with the company was being phased out. Well yeah, now that they had my database why would they need to keep paying my salary?
That was awesome.
I had, all total, on and off over the years, about 10 solid years of experience in the merchandising industry. That last job was when I made the decision that I needed to make a change in my career, so when I landed after the Florida debacle, I never looked back.
Oh I looked back occasionally. Like this week I took a look back and guess what I learned. The merchandising behemoths of my day have all faded into the netherlands. They have all folded, gone out of business, disappeared without a trace. The pomp and the circumstance and the gorging indulgences are all now just dust in the wind. There are still some merchandising companies out there, but they are vastly different. There aren’t as many anymore either. I guess you can only have so many marching bands attend your meetings before the coffers start to run dry, or people start to get wise to your bullshit.
But I’d bet some of them are wishing now that they had paid better than just $6 per hour.
When you’re riding high on the hog while the foundation you’re stomping on is put together with the cheapest materials you can get away with using, don’t expect that foundation to support you for very long.
After learning the fate of the major companies I had worked for over the years, I wanted to sit back and feel just a little bit smug. I confess that I do have a certain sense of satisfaction that I got out when I did, but it’s tinged with a bit of sadness too. The potential that existed with these companies, with the managers in place and the number of people employed, could have been something phenomenal. Instead it went the way of other giants that fell, like Enron, or every dotcom ever conceived. People got greedy. They forgot where they came from and they crapped on the little guy that was doing all the work.
I’m not sure if this is something that will ever change.
I did locate the online resume of one of my old managers though. Guess what he’s doing now. He’s a merchandiser for a greeting card company. I kind of hope he’s making more than $6 per hour.