Factories may now be few and far between in Hong Kong, but manufacturing is very much alive, with the city acting as the main export gateway for mainland-made goods.
This is largely thanks to the merchandisers who take purchase orders and ensure that products are safely delivered to clients on time.
Liu Lap-ming (below), lecturer at the department of business administration of the Hong Kong Institute of Vocational Education (IVE), says the job attracts many youngsters because of the exposure.
"If you enjoy travelling and working with people, a merchandiser role is a nice career choice. A merchandiser has to accompany clients to visit factories to view products, and to trade shows for the latest trends in raw materials and products."
The job is also very international. "Most of the clients that local merchandisers serve are from Europe, the US and Japan," says Liu, adding that this means working hours have to be flexible.
A merchandiser has to provide quotations for raw materials, production costs and shipping schedules. As every country has its own tax, safety and trade requirements, a merchandiser has to be knowledgeable, says Liu. "The job is not over until the products are delivered to the client," he adds.
Merchandisers must have a higher diploma in business administration. Being knowledgeable in specific products is an advantage, as are strong communication skills.
Merchandisers can work for local manufacturers or for merchandising agencies. "Newcomers usually start as merchandising clerks or assistant merchandisers. They can be promoted to merchandisers and then to senior merchandisers and merchandising managers," says Liu.