Retail buyers

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Retail buyers identify, select and purchase stock that matches the retailer’s requirements.

Buyers are responsible for sourcing, developing and introducing product ranges that suit their stores and customer base. A buyer might focus on one area or brand within a retailer, such as cosmetics, confectionery or footwear, or they might look after a whole store or even a whole chain. Buying is an important and responsible role within a retailer as profitability can be affected by how successfully their work is undertaken. The buyer can enhance profits by acquiring suitable goods at competitive prices through sensible planning and careful purchasing. It’s very important for buyers to understand their target audience and be able to predict future trends so that they can purchase what customers want.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • identifying and meeting suitable suppliers/manufacturers

  • visiting fashion shows and trade fairs to look for new products

  • managing stock levels

  • negotiating prices, quantities and delivery time-scales

  • pitching ideas

  • producing reports and forecasts

  • financial administration

  • managing junior staff

  • liaising with other employees about sales performances

  • reviewing what is and isn’t working


Qualifications and training required


There are routes into a retail buying career for both university graduates and school leavers, although there are generally fewer opportunities available for school leavers. Graduates will need a 2.2 or higher degree in any subject, although a relevant discipline such as business, marketing, mathematics or management can be helpful. A degree in fashion or textiles is normally necessary for entry into fashion buying. Any work experience will enhance your application, but there are specific placement years and summer internships with buying departments. Experience on a shop floor is very valuable too


Key skills for retail buyers


  • Commercial awareness

  • Confidence

  • Ability to make decisions

  • Ability to cope with pressure

  • Maths skills

  • IT skills

  • Good teamworking skills

  • Interpersonal skills, particularly in negotiating

  • Effective organisational skills


Typical employers of retail buyers


Retail buyers are employed by national, regional and online retailers such as department stores, fashion retailers and supermarkets. Buyers normally work within the head office of a company, so the majority of vacancies arise in London and other major cities.


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