Merchandisers and retail buyers often work closely together, and in some cases, mid- to small-sized companies do not distinguish between the duties or have a single person completing all tasks.
In cases where there are both buyers and merchandisers, the merchandiser's job usually entails marketing the store. This may include advertising, but more significantly, the merchandiser creates the "look" of the store. Merchandisers have a hand in the store's layout (especially in the case of a department store), and they create displays to attract customers.
That may sound easy, but a lot of thought goes into planning the merchandising of products. You probably never gave it a second thought, but have you ever noticed that anchor department stores at the mall usually have their women's clothing at the entrance of the store? That's because merchandiser research shows that women are more likely to make impulse buys than men.
Or, have you noticed that there are accessories and gift cards placed near the register? That's because the merchandisers have discovered that buyers are more likely to make impulse purchases as they are waiting in line. The merchandiser's job is to pull you into a sale even if a sales person cannot be there to help you.
Again, a college degree is usually necessary to become a merchandiser, as is a period of learning. Junior associates are hired to work under a merchandiser and train for this role.
As a merchandiser, you can expect around the same salary levels as you can if you're a buyer. However, merchandising is a much more specialized field, so jobs are often very competitive at the top. To get your foot in the door, take a position as a store manager and focus on helping with merchandising as much as possible.