Merchandising Manager Moves His Grocery Skills Online | Ladders

Merchandising Manager Moves His Grocery Skills Online

After years running merchandising and display at a brick-and-mortar chain, OpsLadder member Jason Kunick found fresh opportunity on the Internet.

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Jason Kunick is the guy who puts the food on the shelves at the grocery store and the clothes on the racks at the department store. As an operations manager who has worked in supermarkets and retail stores for more than a decade, his specialty is merchandising and display. In simple terms, he manages what goes where on the floor at the store.

“People might think that stores just put things anywhere it fits, but there’s a lot that goes into making those decisions,” Kunick said of his work behind the scenes to manage product -placement decisions that can determine whether a product sells or piles up and how it affects the supply chain behind it.

He created systems to determine how to select and feature products that would increase sales and ensured it synchronized with the supply chain behind it. At his last job, as director of strategy and business development at Family Dollar chain, based in Matthews, N.C., Kunick implemented merchandising programs that increased sales on the floor and helped the company save money.

But after three years, he was looking for a new challenge — and a change of scenery. He also wanted to move his family (which includes three children with a fourth on the way) back to the Northeast, closer to extended families in New York and Pennsylvania.

In June, he joined OpsLadder and began searching for merchandising jobs where he could leverage his experience designing systems to optimize floor sales.

He didn’t expect the change of scenery would ultimately take the floor out of the equation al together.

Numbers game

In July, Kunick began his search in earnest. He set up a schedule that would allow him to dedicate some of his free time to a job search while also working full time and having some time to spend with his family. “I spent two hours a night applying for jobs, following up on applications and networking,” he said. After his children went to bed at 7 p.m., he would sift through jobs on OpsLadder and other job sites, update his LinkedIn profile, and post his resume on various job boards. He estimates that he applied for close to 300 jobs during his four-month search.

“It was a numbers game,” Kunick said. “I applied for any position that applied to my skill set, and I looked outside of retailing, to see where else my skills might be used. But in the end, I found a job that was a perfect fit; I couldn’t have asked for much better.”

For the first month of his search, he said, he was mostly sending resumes. By early September, he started hearing from potential employers and began interviewing simultaneously with several companies. But there was one employer that especially interested him: FreshDirect.

FreshDirect is an online food retailer. Customers place delivery orders online. It is a grocery store without a store, and the floor space, Kunick’s specialty, was a virtual one. But the internet grocer appealed to him on several levels. “I saw what they were doing and thought, this is what I want. The company is going through tremendous growth, and the position lined up well with my skill set. And, it met my goal of being near family.”

Kunick had a phone interview with FreshDirect executives in early September and flew to New York in early October for in-person interviews at the company’s headquarters. A week later, FreshDirect offered Kunick the job as director of category management.

Fresh Direct offers new challenges for Kunick, since all the shopping is done online. In other ways, though, it is the same job to which he’s accustomed. “A lot of what I am doing is finding ways to make it easier for people to buy things,” he explained. “With this job, there is a lot of analysis to figure out where the growth is, and help people better understand how to shop on the site. Basically, I’m looking for ways to make people’s lives easier.”

Since mid-November, he has been living with his wife’s cousin while he waits for his family to join him in New York in late January. And once they do, his growing family will be able to take advantage of FreshDirect’s services. After all, taking children grocery shopping is not one of life’s easiest tasks. “It’s a business I can relate to,” Kunick said.

Patty Orsini

Patty Orsini Patty Orsini is a general assignment reporter for Ladders.