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

Graduates often become buyers after successfully completing a retail management training scheme.

What does a retail buyer do? Typical employers | Qualifications and training | Key skills

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.

With experience, you can progress into senior buying roles or into related areas of employment such as marketing, store management or merchandising.

You can find out more about what life in buying is like by reading our overview of buying. If you want to explore your options, you can also find overviews of eight other careers in retail in our retail job roles explained section.

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.

Take a look at TARGETjobs for retail graduate schemes and jobs. You may also find positions in buying through your university's careers service, national newspapers and specialist publications such as Retail Week, The Grocer and Drapers (for fashion buying vacancies), as well as their online equivalents.

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; you can find out the top ten skills you develop through a part-time retail job here.

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.

For more information on the skills you’ll need, read our article on the five skills retail employers look for – and how you can prove that you possess them. You can also find out what a buyer at TJX had to say about the skills you need for a career in buying.

Next: search graduate jobs and internships

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