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If you want to become a fashion buyer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for a career as a fashion buyer:
• You are well versed in the history of fashion
• You have a keen eye and killer instincts for trends
• You are self-motivated, enthusiastic and dedicated
• You enjoy meeting new people and negotiating
• You are interested in a career path that allows you to be both creative and analytical
• You have an education related to fashion merchandising or marketing
• You have years of retail experience in different capacities
Who is a Fashion Buyer?
A fashion buyer is responsible for sourcing and selecting a range of merchandise to sell in retail outlets. They purchase women's, men's and children's clothing and accessories for both retail and wholesale stores. They may be responsible for buying all kinds of items, including lingerie, shoes, scarves, belts and jewelry.
When employed by smaller stores, fashion buyers are typically responsible for buying the entire inventory. When employed by large stores on the other hand, they may work within a large team of buyers that select the products to be used in all the company’s stores, and may only be responsible for a specific department, such as menswear or shoes, or for buying specific brands.
Fashion buyers must review existing merchandise and source new items to ensure their retail outlet or wholesale store remains competitive. In order to do this, they must have a full understanding of their customer’s needs; they must also be able to choose merchandise that will maximize profits.
To source items, fashion buyers attend trade shows and fashion shows, and visit factories and the offices of manufacturers. Once seemingly suitable items have been found, the fashion buyer must consider many factors when making final purchasing decisions, such as customer demand, store policy, budget, reliability, selection and market trends.
Once a fashion buyer has purchased merchandise, their job is not necessarily over. Many employers require their fashion buyers need to be present to execute the flow of product into and out of the store from beginning to end.
Education Needed to Become a Fashion Buyer
In addition to a natural ability to spot trends, you typically need a university or college education to become a fashion buyer, as many employers require you to have some level of post-secondary education in fashion merchandising, fashion marketing, or business administration in order to be considered for fashion buyer jobs.
Some employers however, will hire you with little post-secondary education, provided you have several years of retail experience in positions with varying sets of responsibility, such as sales associate, assistant manager, merchandise display coordinator, and other positions.
Although some employers hire fashion buyers with little formal education if they have enough experience, it’s good to keep in mind that the higher level of education you attain, the higher your marketability will be.
Skills Needed to Become a Fashion Buyer
In order to become effective in a career as a fashion buyer, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:
• A good understanding of retail math
• Well versed in the history of fashion (helps in trend forecasting for future buys)
• A keen eye and instincts for trends
• Able to look ahead to future buys while keeping an eye on current business
• Able to build good working relationships with suppliers
• Able to choose merchandise that will meet customer needs while also maximizing profits
• Ability to negotiate for the best prices
Who Creates Jobs for Fashion Buyers?
Fashion buyers are typically employed on a full-time or contractual basis by small, medium and large-sized retail and wholesale stores.
In smaller stores, fashion buyers may be responsible for the sourcing, purchasing and merchandising of the entire inventory, whereas in larger stores, fashion buyers may be responsible for a single department, such as menswear or ladieswear, or they may be responsible for overseeing a specific brand within the store.