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What is Merchandising?

Margo Upson
Updated Feb 21, 2024
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Merchandising refers to the techniques used to sell products to consumers. A person or company that works in this area purchases a product from a manufacturer, and then sells it to shoppers. There are numerous techniques that a merchandiser may use to convince shoppers to buy the products he or she is selling. It is usually more than just setting products on a shelf and hoping that they are purchased.

The simplest way to define merchandising is to say that it is the way a product is sold. From the time a product is created, people are developing a plan for how to sell it. The type of packaging, colors, and slogans are all part of this process. Later on, which stores will carry it, where the product is placed in the store aisles, and how the retail store will promote the product that become important factors in the process. Products need to be visible if the store expects people to buy them.

A product will be marketed to a target audience, or the people most likely to purchase the goods and services being offered. This assures that the right product is available in the right place to the right people, and at the right time. It wouldn't make sense to have a huge stock of turkeys, stuffing, cranberry sauce, and pumpkin pies in July, but it does make sense in November in the US, when customers are looking to buy those things.

Products targeted for kids are a great example of merchandising that is available year round. Child-oriented products, such as cereals, crackers and cookies, or other products, are lined up on shelves low enough for a child to see and reach them. The packages are brightly colored, and often have cartoon characters on them. Toy stores typically do not have many items on hard to reach shelves, because they want children to be able to see all of the toys that they offer.

Merchandising is more complicated than just figuring out where to put products on store shelves. It involves a lot of careful planning. If a company orders too much of an item, and it might spoil or go out of style before it is sold out, wasting money. If too little of an item is ordered, people will buy it elsewhere once the business has sold out, costing sales. The seller has to be knowledgeable about statistics, good at math, and have a keen eye for details to be successful in the field.

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Margo Upson
By Margo Upson , Writer
With a vast academic background that has ranged from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education, Margo Upson brings a wealth of knowledge and expertise to her role as a WiseGeek writer. Her wide-ranging interests and skill at diving into new topics make her articles informative, engaging, and valuable to readers seeking to expand their knowledge.

Discussion Comments

By BambooForest — On Feb 07, 2011

When I was in high school algebra class, I had a teacher who had worked for many years in marketing for a grocery store. He told us that most grocery stores design their layout based on store merchandising research of who does the most shopping; according to this research, women do the most, and the average woman's height is 5' 4" (or was about 8 years ago), and so they place the most-wanted items at the eye level of someone that height. This also goes along with the trick @stolaf23 mentioned, in which they put their generic brand next to the most popular brand, hoping to get people to defect. While the generic costs the least, it earns the store the most direct money.

By stolaf23 — On Feb 05, 2011

Merchandising displays are probably one of the most effective ways that stores can get and keep shoppers. Not only in the way that they make the products look attractive, though that is a big part, but also in the way that things are positioned within a store to attract people, such as putting popular brands next to the store brand to encourage buying the generic, or putting the expensive, but popular, items at the ends of aisles so that people remember that they "need" them.

Margo Upson

Margo Upson


With a vast academic background that has ranged from psychology and culinary arts to criminal justice and education,...
Learn more
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