Merchants purchase and sell goods in bulk that are purchased by end consumers or retail stores. Also, many establishments purchase wholesale goods from consumers rather than from retail stores, such as universities and hospitals. Some wholesale goods are also used to make other goods. The end consumer is the individual who actually uses the goods. Merchants work for a variety of industries ranging from groceries to clothing retail to electronics stores. In addition to storing goods, merchants also engage in some marketing, order processing, customer service and technical assistance.
Wholesale merchants usually work 40 hours a week, though some work 50 hours a week or more. Wholesale merchants who work with perishable products sometimes have to work unusual hours such as early in the morning in order to make sure that produce is shipped to grocers before it spoils.
An increasing number of wholesale merchants are expected to have post-secondary training. Workers involved in sales will sometimes be expected to have advertising or marketing education. Workers in management and financial positions will sometimes be expected to have finance or business management education. However, much of the training is performed on-the-job. Workers are trained in maintaining inventory databases, online purchasing systems and electronic data interchange systems. Wholesale merchants must be adept at keeping up to date with changing market forces and wholesale selling technology.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the wholesale trade industry employed 6 million workers in 2008. Wholesale merchants often work in specialized administrative support, sales, management and financial operations occupations. The need for these wholesale merchants is growing at a slow rate of 4 percent as e-commerce comes to replace much of the wholesale trade. However, an aging baby boomer population will drive the need for the wholesale trade of pharmaceuticals and medical devices. Still, job prospects for merchants is low as rising costs force wholesale distributors to merge facilities, which makes many positions redundant.
Sales representatives of technical and scientific products earned a median hourly wage of $33.75. Sales representatives of non-technical and scientific products earned a median hourly wage of $24.68. Customer service representatives earned a median hourly wage of $14.36.