Retail Buyers are mainly in charge of planning, selecting, and buying merchandise for a retail establishment’s resale purposes and are usually responsible for the merchandising operations of these establishments. They also may specialize in a particular merchandise line (e.g. men’s clothing, women’s shoes, children’s toys, or electronics) and can be divided into Supervisors and Assistant Buyers.
A Retail Buyer’s job might seem easy enough, however, it can be quite complex. Due to the fact that it is deeply connected with consumer shopping patterns, Retail Buyers need to understand what consumers want, what products will sell, what new merchandise will interest shoppers and, in some cases (e.g. the fashion industry), future needs and trends. Hence, it’s necessary for Retail Buyers to respond to market and season changes in order to keep the store relevant, because if they’re wrong, the profits and reputation of the establishment could be compromised.
The most popular—and probably the most exciting—area of retail buying is in the world of fashion. However, Retail Buyers can work in all areas of Retail, such as supermarkets, bookstores, appliance stores, or computer shops.
Here’s a non-exhaustive list of common tasks Retail Buyers are required to complete.
- Planning, choosing, and purchasing merchandise for resale purposes by retail establishments:
- Reviewing the establishment’s requirements in order to determine quantity and type of merchandise to purchase;
- selecting the merchandise which best fits the establishment’s requirements, based on the demand and the industry trends;
- working within the established budget;
- locating, selecting, and procuring merchandise for resale;
- overseeing distribution of merchandise to outlets and maintaining adequate stock levels;
- determining contract terms and conditions;
- keeping up-to-date with changes affecting both the supply of, and demand for, products and materials; and
- solving any problems that may arise with the merchandise and/or supplier.
- Studying market reports, trade periodicals, and sales promotion materials, and visiting trade shows, showrooms, factories, and product design events:
- Analyzing market research and trends to determine consumer demand and potential sales volumes;
- carrying out research and evaluating how current products are performing, as well as researching competitors’ products and sales;
- relaunching specific lines and introducing new ones;
- keeping up-to-date on the latest marketing and industry trends; and
- understanding the current market and predicting future trends.
- Carrying out the product development stage when introducing new products:
- Using the findings from the market research and analysis, evaluating what needs to be included in the new product(s), and making the final decisions about the details of the product(s) (e.g. colors, sizes, and patterns);
- meeting with suppliers or Designers in order to find out what they have to offer;
- checking product samples; and
- presenting their work to Senior Managers before the new product(s) is introduced into shops.
- Establishing and maintaining contact with vendors and suppliers:
- Interviewing suppliers and negotiating prices, discounts, credit terms, and transportation arrangements;
- visiting factories;
- inspecting the quality of the purchased product and reporting any defects to the suppliers; and
- building a network of vendors and suppliers.
- Coordinating with other departments of the company in order to make an informed decision:
- Consulting with the Sales department to know the performance of a certain item in order to replace it or continue selling it; and
- supervising the work of other Retail Buyers.
- Carrying out administrative duties:
- Reviewing quotations; and
- communicating with the shipping companies and customs for shipping terms, lead time, and payment methods.
- Planning, choosing, and purchasing merchandise for resale purposes.
- Evaluating suppliers based on price, quality, and delivery speed.
- Attending meetings, showrooms, factories, trade shows, and conferences in order to learn about new industry trends and make contacts with suppliers.
- Studying market reports and trends.
- Meeting with staff and suppliers to discuss defective or unacceptable products and determining corrective action.
The average Retail Buyer salary is $45,692 per year or $23 per hour. This is around 1.4 times more than the Median wage of the country. Entry level positions start at $32,000 while most experienced workers make up to $64,000. These results are based on 36 salaries extracted from job descriptions.
- Exceptional communication and interpersonal skills:
- Communicating clearly, both in writing and verbally, in order to create a clear and communicative environment and negotiate with customers and suppliers, as well as with other Retail Buyers; and
- listening carefully and understanding customers’ product requirements.
- Strong math skills:
- Being able to compare prices from different suppliers to ensure that they’re getting the best deal.
- Outstanding negotiating abilities:
- Being able to negotiate the terms and conditions of contracts with both suppliers and retail establishments.
- Being resourceful, energetic, and displaying a strong desire to take initiative.
- Strong organizational, operational, and planning skills in a sales-focused environment:
- Multitasking; being able to work in a dynamic, fast-paced environment; and
- being proactive and able to work under pressure while handling tight deadlines.
- Analytical, problem-solving, and decision-making skills:
- Identifying issues and resolving problems in a timely manner;
- analyzing all types of quantitative and qualitative data; and
- making informed and timely decisions when choosing products they think will sell, as well as when selecting suppliers.
- Great attention to detail:
- Being able to inspect the quality of the purchased products.
Candidates looking to work as Retail Buyers will not require a specific degree, however, specializing in a business related field will definitely increase their chances of getting the job. Furthermore, employers look for applicants that are sociable, creative, logic, analytical, and great communicators, as well as confident and able to make very important decisions, since part of this job is dealing directly with suppliers, creating good contacts, and determining future trends and sales. Retail Buyers should also have sound business and commercial awareness; merchandising management knowledge in order to satisfy the market’s demand; and they require industry knowledge in order to understand and predict trends.
Retail Buyers tend to start as Junior Buyers and Assistant Buyers, working alongside and learning from Senior Buyers and other staff members. In order to further advance in this field, candidates can finish an MBA to improve their management credentials, which can be also used to progress in other areas of the corporate world. Qualified Retail Buyers may be promoted to Store Managers, Heads of Marketing, or Product Managers, among others.