Education and Training On-the-job training
Salary Median—$9.66 per hour
Employment Outlook Poor
Definition and Nature of the Work
Stock clerks typically work in stores, warehouses, and factories, where they control the flow of supplies in and out of stockrooms. They receive and store merchandise or equipment that is retained for future use and issue these items from the stockroom when they are needed. In addition, they keep track of the number of items in storage and reorder items that are in short supply. The main goal of a stock clerk is to prevent production slowdowns or sales losses by making sure there are adequate supplies of merchandise or equipment on hand.
When stock clerks receive deliveries, they unpack the boxes, inspect the items, and return unsatisfactory or damaged goods to the wholesaler or distributor. Acceptable merchandise is then arranged on shelves and racks, in bins, or on the floor of the stockroom. Stock clerks are also responsible for marking goods with the proper identifying codes and prices so that supplies can be retrieved easily. When stock clerks receive requests or orders for items from the stockroom, they send the appropriate merchandise to the right department. In large stockrooms, automated material-handling equipment is used to help store and retrieve goods.
Stockroom clerks typically use handheld scanners and computers to keep track of the items. When an item enters or leaves the stockroom they scan a bar code affixed to the item. The scanner then feeds the information into a computer, which keeps records of the merchandise in the stockroom. Periodically stock clerks may use the scanner to go over all the merchandise in the stockroom or on the sales floor to see if the computer's inventory records are correct. When inventory is down, they reorder items in short supply. In some stockrooms, however, computers automatically order items. Stock clerks who work with food, drugs, or other perishable items are responsible for maintaining the proper temperature and humidity in the stockroom. They also may date the goods and rotate them so they do not spoil.
In large companies several different employees handle the work that is done by one stock clerk in a smaller firm. For instance, shipping and receiving clerks may examine shipments, return damaged goods, and report quality and quantity problems to a supervisor. The records kept by stock clerks may be used by stock control workers to compile reports that establish or recommend stock level or replenishment needs. Inventory clerks may keep track of supplies on hand and order additional supplies as needed. Markers may label the goods with codes. Order fillers may pull items from the stockroom at the request of various people or departments in a company, and messengers may be employed to deliver orders to those people or departments. In large factories procurement clerks handle the purchasing of new equipment.
Education and Training Requirements
There are no specific educational requirements to become a stock clerk, but interested individuals should have basic reading, writing, and mathematical skills. Familiarity with computers is desirable as well. Employers often look for applicants with typing or data-entry skills and filing abilities because recordkeeping is an important part of the stock clerk's job. Candidates can be trained on the job in one to three months, beginning with basic tasks such as unpacking and counting merchandise and advancing to taking inventory and keeping records. As more automated and computerized equipment is used, training and retraining may take longer.
Getting the Job
Internet job sites and newspapers often carry want ads for stock clerks. Those interested can also apply directly to factories, wholesale and retail businesses, mail order houses, government agencies, hospitals, and other places that process a large volume of merchandise. Private or state employment offices may list job openings as well.
Advancement Possibilities and Employment Outlook
Stock clerks can advance in a variety of ways. Those who work for large businesses can become invoice clerks, stock control clerks, procurement clerks, or stockroom supervisors. In many cases further education is required for supervisory positions, as well as for positions as buyers and purchasing agents.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 1.6 million people were employed as stock clerks in 2004. Employment of stock clerks was expected to decline between 2004 and 2014. The increased use of computers and other automated equipment in stockrooms will limit job growth, but some openings will occur each year to replace workers who leave the field. The greatest number of openings will likely be in grocery stores and department stores due to the high number of items that these establishments sell.
Many stockrooms are well lighted, heated, and clean; others may be uncomfortably damp, drafty, and dim. Stock clerks usually work forty hours a week, with possible overtime during holiday seasons or when inventory is taken. These workers do a great deal of standing and walking during the working day. They bend, stoop, and climb, sometimes while lifting and carrying stock weighing as much as one hundred pounds. Stock workers risk injury when climbing ladders and lifting heavy objects. Many stock clerks are union members.
Where to Go for More Information
International Brotherhood of Teamsters
25 Louisiana Ave. NW
Washington, DC 20001
United Food and Commercial Workers International Union
1775 K St. NW
Washington, DC 20006
Earnings and Benefits
Beginning stock clerks frequently start out at the minimum wage and advance from there. Stock clerks earned a median hourly wage of $9.66 in 2004, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Full-time workers usually receive benefits that include paid vacations and holidays, health insurance, and retirement plans.