What Does a Visual Merchandising Associate Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

Image shows a woman in a store display, arranging flowers. On the table is a show, a dress on a mannequin, string lights behind her, and a sign that says

The Balance / Maddy Price

For many, working in retail is synonymous with getting a job-of-last-resort. However, some retail industry jobs like visual merchandising associate are popular, coveted, competitive and viewed as being one of the fun jobs that the retail industry has to offer.

Visual merchandising team members contribute to the advertising, marketing, and sales efforts of a retail location by designing, developing, and taking charge of the visual look of the store and its merchandise. As a member of the in-store merchandising team, they execute merchandising strategies by creating and maintaining visual displays in the store windows and on the sales floor. They also contribute to the profitability of the store with their merchandise handling, replenishment, and inventory control efforts.

Visual Merchandising Associate Duties & Responsibilities

This job requires candidates to be able to perform duties that include the following:

  • Research current lifestyle and design trends.
  • Develop themes and color schemes for displays.
  • Sketch display designs.
  • Source necessary props and other materials for displays.
  • Install and remove displays.

In addition, once designs have been planned, visual merchandising associates will need to prepare visual merchandising sets or packs. This includes plans, posters, and photographs for other stores in the chain so that all displays present a consistent image. It's important to be able to work as part of an integrated design team, and the manager often visits other store branches to train and brief staff on how to consistently arrange their in-store displays.

Visual Merchandising Associate Salary

The size and geographic location of the retail operation can affect the salary range. The level at which a visual merchanding associate is hired, and their experience and credentials influence compensation.

Those working as visual merchandisers receive the same benefits as other store employees. Benefit packages generally include health insurance and generous discounts on store merchandise.

  • Median Annual Salary: $30,430 ($14.63/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: More than $54,642 ($26.27/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: Less than $19,885 ($9.56/hour)

Education, Training & Certification

The visual merchandising associate position involves fulfilling education and training requirements as follows:

  • Education: Most retailers require a high school diploma before being given full-time responsibility for visual merchandising. Entry-level visual merchandising positions may not require additional education, but advancement will probably require additional formal education in visual merchandising, marketing, or both.
  • Experience: Most retail operations require either retail experience or visual merchandising formal training for this position, and most will want to see a portfolio. Some of the largest retail chains will probably require both education and experience.
  • Training: If a candidate has acquired on-the-job training or expertise, they may be able to obtain an entry-level visual merchandising job by demonstrating a thorough understanding of marketing principles and retail merchandising fundamentals. Supervisory experience may be necessary for a visual merchandising associate position in a large store.

Visual Merchandising Associate Skills & Competencies

In addition to education and other requirements, candidates that possess the following skills may be able to perform more successfully in the job:

  • Organized: Excellent organizational skills are required to excel in this position.
  • Efficient: Good design work takes planning, project management, and time management expertise.
  • Communication: Excellent communication and interpersonal skills are needed for this position to convey design ideas to supervisors and others.
  • Design ability: A strong creative flair and effective problem-solving abilities help create stunning visual displays.
  • Computer knowledge: Stores will be willing to train applicants with their specific systems and software, but they want a basic knowledge of computer functions. A working knowledge of Microsoft Office will probably be required as well.

    Job Outlook

    The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not report specific job outlook information for the position of visual merchandising associate. It notes that retail employees, which includes merchandising displayers, can expect slow job growth between 2016 and 2026. New jobs are expected to grow by 3% or about 4,600 positions. This compares to 7% growth for all occupations.

    Work Environment

    Because they are responsible for creating and changing visual displays, visual merchanding associates need to be able to push, lift, and carry 30 to 50 pounds of merchandise and fixtures. The visual merchandising associate position is physically demanding, and they are on their feet and walking for eight or more hours per day.

    Work Schedule

    Visual display work often occurs at times when it is the least disruptive to the sales floor and the customer experience. So visual merchandising associates should be prepared to work early morning and late-night hours, as well as weekends and holidays.

    How to Get the Job

    PREPARE

    Brush up your resume to highlight relevant skills and previous experience. Prepare your experience using ideas from this list of retail skills.

    NETWORK

    Network your way to a new job by attending events organized by various retail industry trade organizations. Check the Visual Merchandising and Store Design Associations online site to find visual display associations that appeal to you.

    APPLY

    Look at job search resources such as Indeed.com, Monster.com, and Glassdoor.com for available visual merchandising associate positions. Visit the websites of retail store chains and physical retail stores to apply to open job positions. Play up any useful experience that sets you apart, such as coursework in design or artistic hobbies.

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