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Merchandise Associate vs. Sales Associate: What Are the Differences?

Learn about the two careers and review some of the similarities and differences between them.

Merchandise associates and sales associates are both retail positions that require customer service skills. However, these roles have different responsibilities. A merchandise associate is responsible for stocking shelves and organizing merchandise, while a sales associate helps customers find the products they need and completes sales transactions. In this article, we compare and contrast these two retail positions to help you decide which one is right for you.

What is a Merchandise Associate?

A Merchandise Associate is responsible for stocking shelves and displays, setting up sales floor presentations, and providing excellent customer service. They may also be responsible for conducting price checks, processing returns, and handling customer complaints. Merchandise Associates typically work in retail settings, such as department stores, grocery stores, and big box stores. They may also work in warehouses or distribution centers.

What is a Sales Associate?

Sales Associates are responsible for generating sales by providing excellent customer service and supporting the sales team. They work closely with customers to provide them with information about products, answer questions, and help them make purchasing decisions. Sales Associates also work with customers after the sale to ensure they are satisfied with their purchase and to resolve any issues. They may also be responsible for merchandising and stocking shelves, as well as conducting price comparisons and product demonstrations. Sales Associates typically work in retail environments and may be responsible for opening and closing the store.

Merchandise Associate vs. Sales Associate

Here are the main differences between a merchandise associate and a sales associate.

Job Duties

A merchandise associate’s job duties can vary based on the type of retail establishment they work for and their level of experience. Typically, though, a merchandise associate’s duties include helping the store manager choose which products to carry and where to place them in the store to maximize sales. This may involve researching customer preferences and market trends to determine what products the store should carry and how much those products are likely to sell.

Sales associates also help customers find the right products, but their primary job is to increase total sales by persuading customers to purchase more products than they planned to. Sales associates often do this by offering discounts or other incentives, like gift cards or coupons, to entice customers to buy additional products. They may also use persuasive speaking techniques to convince customers to try new products that they might enjoy.

Job Requirements

Most merchandise associates and sales associates have a high school diploma or equivalent. However, some employers may prefer candidates with some college experience or coursework in business, marketing or a related field. Additionally, many retailers offer on-the-job training for entry-level positions that teach new employees about the company’s products and services, as well as how to use the sales system and process transactions.

Work Environment

Merchandise and sales associates work in different environments. Merchandise associates typically work in retail stores, where they help customers find the products they need. They may also work at warehouses or distribution centers to receive shipments of merchandise for their store. Sales associates usually work in a variety of locations, such as department stores, clothing boutiques or car dealerships. They often travel between these locations to meet with clients and discuss product options.


There are several similarities in the skills needed for a merchandise associate and a sales associate. Both positions require excellent customer service skills, as they will be working with customers on a regular basis. They also need to have good communication skills to be able to answer questions and provide information about products. Additionally, both positions require basic math skills to be able to ring up purchases and calculate discounts.

There are also some differences in the skills needed for these two positions. A merchandise associate needs to be organized and detail-oriented in order to keep track of inventory and ensure that products are properly stocked and displayed. They may also need to use basic computer skills to enter data into a system. A sales associate, on the other hand, needs to be more focused on sales techniques in order to close deals and meet quotas. They may need to be familiar with the company’s sales software in order to input customer information and process transactions.


The average salary for a merchandise associate is $40,364 per year, while the average salary for a sales associate is $41,518 per year. Both of these salaries can vary depending on the type of company you work for, your location and your level of experience.


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