Education and Training High school and on-the-job training
Salary Average—$24,643 per year
Employment Outlook Fair
Definition and Nature of the Work
Comparison shoppers work for retail department, specialty, and variety stores. They visit competitors' stores and Web sites to compare the prices, type, and quality of merchandise found there to the merchandise sold in their own store. Comparison shoppers make detailed written and oral reports to the management of their own store. The management then uses this information to set prices, merchandising procedures, and buying policies.
Comparison shoppers usually specialize in one particular type of merchandise such as furniture or children's clothing. When visiting competitors' stores, they act as customers, taking note of merchandise that seems to be selling well and examining sale items to see if they match advertising claims. Comparison shoppers write down the price, style, and identification numbers of the merchandise and may purchase new or unusual items so that closer study can be made of them. At times these shoppers return or complain about the merchandise sold at competitors' stores to test the effectiveness of their customer service departments.
Comparison shoppers also perform functions that do not involve shopping. They study merchandise displays and sales techniques in other stores and compare them with those of their own store. They frequently visit the sales floors and stockrooms of their own store to keep themselves up to date on merchandise stocked and sold. In addition, comparison shoppers are responsible for checking advertising copy for their store to make sure it is accurate and meets the legal requirements regarding descriptions of price reductions, fabric fiber content, and origin of merchandise.
Education and Training Requirements
Many employers hire high school graduates, but some employers give preference to applicants who have a college background. Workers generally receive on-the-job training. Students can prepare themselves for a career as a comparison shopper by taking courses in English, business, and marketing. In some cases sales workers are promoted to the position of comparison shopper, so taking a summer or part-time selling job may be helpful.
Successful comparison shoppers should be able to express themselves effectively in speech and writing. They also need to have good clerical abilities and a basic understanding of computers and the Internet. Most comparison shoppers are expected to be neat in appearance.
Getting the Job
Job openings for comparison shoppers are sometimes advertised in newspaper want ads and on career sites on the Internet. Interested individuals can apply directly to department and other retail stores that employ comparison shoppers. School placement offices may be helpful in finding such a job.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Comparison shoppers can advance to other positions in retailing such as buyer, merchandising manager, or service manager. In many cases further education is required for advancement.
Because the field is attractive to many people, there are generally more applicants than job openings. Competition for jobs is expected to continue since the Internet has curtailed much of the need for comparison shoppers. Most medium and large retail operations list their prices and merchandise descriptions on the Web for managers and market researchers to see, eliminating the need to send someone out into the field to obtain the information.
Comparison shoppers usually work forty hours a week. Although they generally have a desk in a pleasant office, they spend much of their time in the field. Comparison shoppers travel to competitors' stores on foot, by bus, by train, or by car and do a lot of standing and walking during the workday. They constantly reach for and handle objects and carry packages that may weigh up to twenty pounds.
Where to Go for More Information
American Collegiate Retailing Association
Department of Consumer Affairs
308 Spidle Hall
Auburn, AL 36849
American Marketing Association
311 S. Wacker Dr., Ste. 5800
Chicago, IL 60606
National Retail Federation
325 Seventh St. NW, Ste. 1100
Washington, DC 20004-2608
Earnings and Benefits
Earnings for comparison shoppers vary greatly, depending on experience, location, and store size. According to Salary Expert.com, comparison shoppers made an average salary of $24,643 per year in 2006. Employers generally provide benefits such as paid holidays and vacations, health insurance, and retirement plans. Many stores also give their employees a discount on merchandise purchased at the store.