Retail buyer: job description
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
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.
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.
Vacancies are advertised online and in careers services, national newspapers and specialist publications such as Retail Week, The Grocer, Drapers (for fashion buying vacancies), and The Retail Appointment as well as their online equivalents.
- Strengthen your job applications by reading our tips on how to write a great graduate retail CV.
- Find out what salary you might earn as a graduate in retail.
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.
- Find out which retail employers accept graduates with a 2.2 degree.
- Use our guide to retail work experience to help you explore your options.
To find out about how you can get into this career via a school leaver route (eg an apprenticeship or school leaver training programme) see the retail, buying and fashion section of TARGETcareers, our website aimed at school leavers.
- Commercial awareness
- 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 two buyers at T K Maxx had to say when we asked them what skills you need for a career in buying.