It can be so easy to get caught up in the shopping experience (whether you enjoy it or not), that you’ve probably never thought about how your latest purchase made it into your basket in the first place.

Don’t worry, everyone is guilty of not questioning it…well except buyers in retail jobs, because they’re the ones responsible for the stock that you’re queuing up for.


So, what will I actually be doing?

Working very closely with the merchandisers, a retail buyer helps to ensure the right products are selected to bring into the store.

You’ll be in charge of making key decisions throughout the buying process including:

  • Selecting new products and reviewing the old
  • Finding the right suppliers
  • Negotiating prices (so the store doesn’t get ripped off)
  • Ensuring the products are delivered on time
  • Helping to interpret reports and predicting future sales
  • Pitching ideas to senior management
  • Stock control
  • Budgeting
  • Reacting to any changes in customer demand
  • Maintaining relationships with existing suppliers while seeking new ones
  • Attending trade events
  • Getting feedback from customers

Not for the easily flustered, the job can get quite complicated as you have to consider several things before you select merchandise.

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The finer details...

Because you’ll have a lot of deadlines to hit during the day, you’ll often be working beyond the typical 9-5 hours.

Often working in the head office, your work-base can change depending on the season, particularly if you’re working in a clothes store. In the slow seasons you’ll mainly be in the office, but during the busier buying months it’s likely you’ll spend a lot more time at trade shows and with suppliers.

This is a team-orientated role and you’ll be working closely with other departments to help pick the right products. So if you hate people, this isn’t the job for you.

Not just for the retail industry, buyers exist in plenty of specialist sectors so you can pick an area that interests you and help them stock the next big thing.

Benefits can include private healthcare, and more importantly, retail discount.

Money, money, money

Due to the pressurised nature of the job, a buyer’s salary is pretty good, even at the very beginning.

When you first start you can expect to earn between £18,000 and £25,000.

As you gain more experience the salary goes up to around £35,000-£60,000.

Hit the senior buying level and you’re looking at taking home between £55,000-£70,000 a year.

Although salaries can change depending on your location and the size of the company.

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The good points...

If you choose to specialise in a particular area, being a buyer can be quite glamorous, particularly if you choose to work with fashion.

Because the needs of customers change throughout the year, the minute one season is over, you’ll have completely different stock to pick from for the next, so there’s plenty of variety too.

...and the bad

There’s a lot of responsibility on buyer’s shoulders, so expect to have a few stressful days, especially if you end up picking the wrong products and the store makes a loss.

Is there study involved?

A qualification (preferably a degree) in a relevant retail or business subject is always handy to have on the CV. Try and be specific to the sector you want to be in from the start, want to work in fashion outlets? Then a fashion degree would be a good start.

Graduate programmes and in-house training are also available. These are particularly useful as they help you to develop your skill set.

Education not for you? You can work your way up the retail ladder without any qualifications and try for internal promotions, but expect a higher amount of competition.

With or without qualifications, try and get retail experience before you start hastily applying for buyer jobs. Even if it’s just a part-time weekend job, it’ll give you a feel for the environment and show your passion for the industry.

OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?

To enjoy being a buyer, it’s always helpful to have an interest in the area you’re working in, as this will give you a better eye for picking merchandise. It also helps if you can:

  • Adapt to any situation
  • Can remain calm under pressure
  • Spot the next big thing
  • Have a passion for retail
  • Have analytical skills
  • Negotiate and network
  • Work in a team
  • Be organised
  • Multi-task
  • Be numerical
  • Have IT skills
  • Have good commercial awareness
  • Be creative


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