April 2024

Establishing value in Direct Store Delivery: Merchandiser

by Nick Capuano & Jordan Mullins

Back to insights

Establishing value in Direct Store Delivery: Merchandiser

April 2024 by Nick Capuano & Jordan Mullins

Back to insights


There are many players in the complex system of Direct Store Delivery (DSD), where suppliers and retailers must partner to achieve mutual success. In this article, we’ll look at a key player who is often overlooked—the Merchandiser.

Their role is not confined to mere stocker; rather, it encompasses a spectrum of impact that spans from basic product placement to value creation. Let’s dive into the role of Merchandisers’ influence on value within the realm of DSD, exploring the behavior of a good Merchandiser, a better Merchandiser, and the best Merchandiser.

This knowledge and implementation of advisement are a core part of The Gap Partnership’s consulting services.

The role of the Merchandiser: Beyond stocking shelves

A Merchandiser is a frontline ambassador, representing the supplier within the retailer’s domain. Their actions have an impact far beyond the immediate task of placing products on shelves. They possess an intricate understanding of the retail ecosystem, store dynamics, and customer behavior. Merchandisers navigate a multifaceted landscape, where every action contributes to maximizing value for both parties involved.

The good Merchandiser: A foundation of competence

A good Merchandiser possesses the foundational skills required for effective product placement and store maintenance. They ensure that products transition from the storeroom to the sales floor, maintaining an organized and visually appealing presentation. A good Merchandiser’s behavior includes:

  • Basic stocking: Ensure products are adequately stocked and rotated to maintain freshness.
  • Compliance with planograms: Adhere to planograms, ensuring products are displayed according to the retailer’s layout guidelines.
  • Basic customer interaction: Engage with customers when approached, offering assistance and answering questions.
  • Basic communication: Relay stock level information and report any inventory discrepancies to their supervisor.

While a good Merchandiser fulfills essential responsibilities, their responsibility is limited to maintaining operational standards without actively driving additional value.

The better Merchandiser: Adding tactical elements

Moving beyond the foundation, a better Merchandiser brings tactical insights and initiatives to the table. They understand the nuances of store layouts and leverage their understanding to optimize value. The behavior of a better Merchandiser involves:

  • Proactive shelf management: Actively optimize shelf space, ensuring high-turnover products are prominently displayed for increased sales.
  • Innovative displays: Create eye-catching displays that draw attention to specific products, contributing to cross-selling and upselling.
  • Customer engagement: Initiate conversations with customers, offering product recommendations and promoting ongoing sales.
  • Data-driven insights: Analyze sales data and customer feedback to identify trends, suggesting adjustments to product assortment and placement.

The better Merchandiser’s impact extends beyond operational efficiency to drive incremental sales and enhance the shopping experience.

The best Merchandiser: Value creation

At the pinnacle of the merchandising hierarchy stands the best Merchandiser—a true value creator. Their behavior goes beyond routine tasks, as they have a profound understanding of the retail landscape. The best Merchandiser’s behavior encompasses:

  • Strategic space optimization: Collaboratively work with the retailer to identify prime display locations and negotiate for optimal shelf and aisle space.
  • Innovative promotions: Conceptualize and execute innovative promotional displays that align with both parties’ objectives, leveraging high-margin products alongside fast-moving items.
  • Dynamic product rotation: Meticulously manage product rotations and inventory levels to minimize waste and maximize sales potential.
  • Relationship cultivation: Build strong relationships with Store Managers, department heads and key decision-makers, leveraging these connections to influence product placement and promotional opportunities.

The best Merchandiser’s actions are strategic, comprehensive and aligned with overarching business objectives, creating value that resonates throughout the supplier-retailer partnership.

Inside their head: Sarah’s Super Bowl display

It was January, and customers were heading to the grocery store in droves. The NFL Playoffs were upon us, and everyone was looking to stock up on their favorites ahead of rooting for their team to make it to the Super Bowl. Sarah, the best Merchandiser, showcased her skills and understanding of value. Her stores were off the beaten path a little bit, and as such, did not get as much attention as they deserved from vendor partners.

This provided Sarah with an opportunity to find value where others chose not to look. As she expertly rotated products, ensuring their freshness, her keen eye spotted a prime spot at the front of the store—a coveted space for promotions.

In most of Sarah’s accounts, this space was filled with Super Bowl party needs, but here it was only being used to hold extra shopping carts. Recognizing the potential for increased sales and profitability, she collaborated with the Store Manager, who was looking for ideas on how to capitalize on the increased foot traffic. Aligning her proposal with the retailer's objectives, what followed was a brilliantly designed, thematic football display, that seamlessly blended high-turnover items with innovative products.

The themed display created value, not only in the surge of sales, but also in the smiles of satisfied customers who were able to grab key items quickly and discover new favorites. Sarah's ability to combine innovation, profitability and retailer priorities exemplified the extraordinary impact of the best Merchandiser in the realm of Direct Store Delivery.


In the world of Direct Store Delivery, the Merchandiser is an instrumental piece of the puzzle, creating value that transcends routine tasks. A good Merchandiser sets the stage by ensuring products are properly stocked, while a better Merchandiser adds strategic elements to boost sales and enhance the shopping experience. However, the best Merchandiser is a tactical expert, seamlessly integrating with the retailer's ecosystem, strategically optimizing displays and creating value throughout the store. As the DSD partnership evolves, recognizing and nurturing the potential of the best Merchandiser becomes a cornerstone of maximizing value.

About the authors 

Nick Capuano, Senior Consultant, The Gap Partnership

Nick Capuano is a results-driven Senior Consultant at The Gap Partnership, based in Philadelphia, PA. With a career spanning over a decade, Nick has honed his expertise in business development, account management, and strategic leadership across various industries. His exceptional proficiency in delivering and facilitating core development workshops, coupled with his talent for building and maintaining positive collaborative relationships with clients, are fundamental drivers of his success.​

During his tenure as the National Business Development Manager at PepsiCo Foodservice, Nick led national new business initiatives in specialty retail, amusement, and fitness sectors. His exceptional abilities in prospecting potential customers, developing relationships with C-suite executives, and structuring national deals across all lines of business were pivotal to the company's success.

As the National Account Sales Manager at MFO Restaurants, Nick cultivated relationships with national customers, including renowned concepts such as Papa John’s, Little Caesar’s, Jersey Mike’s, Dairy Queen, and Capriotti’s. ​

His proficiency in understanding and managing customer organizations, utilizing personal influence and knowledge to achieve goals in a matrix environment, greatly contributed to the company's growth.

With a proven track record of success in strategic business development, relationship management, and leadership, Nick Capuano is a dedicated professional committed to driving excellence and achieving impactful results in every endeavor.

Jordan Mullins, Senior Consultant, The Gap Partnership

Jordan has spent the last 10+ years working and growing within the CPG industry, spending time with multiple Fortune 500 companies such as Coca Cola, Kraft Heinz, and Colgate Palmolive. During this time, he realized his passion not only for negotiation, but his desire to help his co-workers become the best versions of themselves, which led him to the Gap Partnership. ​

During his time prior to joining The Gap Partnership, Jordan was tasked with improving the processes for multiple national sales programs and being able to successfully train and deliver significant financial results across the organization simultaneously. Jordan has achieved a Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration as well as a Master's in Business Administration from Slippery Rock University in Pennsylvania.​

Jordan is currently a Senior Consultant and is responsible for delivering our portfolio of workshops brilliantly across all sectors such as CPG, Retail, Oil and Gas, Automotive, and Pharma. ​

Jordan finds passion for helping all of the participants find who they need to be during these workshops while helping them implement these behaviors and reap the benefits of the program.

About The Gap Partnership

The Gap Partnership is a management consultancy specializing in negotiation. We help organizations drive profitability, increase efficiency and reduce cost.

Negotiation is an integral part of everything a business does. It exerts a critical influence on the profitability and market value of the organization.

At The Gap Partnership, we provide development programs and negotiation training to our clients. We work with you to understand your challenges and performance needs. Our negotiation consultants come from your industry and will support you with a 'complete' solution that embeds learning, measures capability and delivers sustainable change.

We hold ourselves accountable for your success. 70% of our business comes from clients we have worked with for over five years

If you require further information on how we can help you and your teams make the most of every negotiation, or simply need to ask us a question - just call, email or complete the form.

Enter your details to download the PDF

Nick Capuano & Jordan Mullins