Assistant Merchandisers – Cherry Picking The Best


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The longer I recruit for the merchandising world, the more I come to the realisation that Assistant Merchandisers are the biggest and most essential cog in the machine that is retail. And as we all know, merchandising is – as a function – at the very heart of the smooth running of a retail head office. I think what I’m therefore saying, is that it’s Assistant Merchandisers who are THE most essential people in retailing.

If you’re still with me, I hope you’re in agreement… These are the people who run their own little pieces of the pies within departments. Who can step up and oversee departments in the absence of a Merchandiser. And who can still happily roll their sleeves up and take on the admin or allocation.

But as an industry there is a huge shortage of AMs. We simply can’t create them quickly enough to manage our need. Which – you must agree – is ironic given it’s all about planning and demand, and managing levels (if only we could find an AM to monitor AM levels!). Barely a month passes when a large retailer isn’t recruiting an AM for one of their departments.

As a result of this dearth of talent, we’re seeing salaries escalate for AMs. With grads easily securing Allocator roles at £22k now, the starting salary for an AM has gone up and up and up. Today I was briefed on an AM1 role with a salary of £26k. It’s not long ago that an AM3 would have been paid that sort of figure.

The AM market is a promiscuous one, and candidates move regularly from job to job, chasing another couple of grand here or there with each move. This doesn’t pay off long-term, when they’re in interviews a few years down the line and have to justify the job-hopping. And of course the flipside of it is the counter-offering that takes place – someone on £24k can secure a job on £26k then be paid £28k to stay. So then the merry-go-round moves again, and salaries shift higher and higher.

So what’s my advice I hear you cry? (If you’re still with me – hope you are!) My advice to clients is to offer a work environment AMs enjoy. Benefits. Social events. Training. Progression. Those are the best ways to keep them. And my advice to AMs is to be savvy with your career path, think how your CV will look long-term. Move on when it’s time to. Move for development. Don’t be dazzled by an extra couple of grand.

If you’re an Assistant Merchandiser looking for a new role, AQUAretail are currently managing some extremely exciting opportunities for a wealth of fashion retailers. Drop us a line on jobs@aquaretail.co.uk with your CV and we’ll tell you all about them (but we’ll also tell you to sit back down at your desk if you’ve not served long enough for your current employer!).

Assistant Merchandisers truly can cherry-pick the best roles out there, but employers will also cherry-pick THEM.

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