Job descriptions and industry overviews

Retail buyer: job description

31 Jul 2023, 17:43

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

Clothes rails on a shop floor: retail buyers identify, select and purchase stock for retailers

What does a retail buyer do? | Graduate salaries | 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 chain.

Buying is a key 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.

Typical responsibilities include:

  • pitching ideas for new product ranges to key stakeholders in the business
  • identifying suitable suppliers/manufacturers and developing close relationships with them
  • visiting fashion shows and trade fairs to look for new products
  • visiting manufacturing sites to ensure they are compatible with your employer’s ethical supply chain policies
  • placing orders
  • negotiating prices, quantities and delivery timescales
  • managing stock levels and analysing purchase data
  • producing reports and forecasts
  • completing financial and other system administration.

Buyers typically work closely with merchandisers . Once a buyer has chosen the products they think the retailer should sell, merchandisers will decide how many of each product will go into particular stores. Sometimes the role of buyer and merchandiser is combined.

Buyers also have a role in the product design (or fashion design ) process, for example feeding into design ideas to develop products that the customer wants.

Graduate salaries

Typical salaries for graduate retail buyers are anywhere between £21,000 and £37,000, depending on the employer and location. See our advice feature on the highest paying graduate jobs for more information.

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, although some retailers place graduates in store or at a regional distribution centre for part of their graduate scheme.

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. Securing a place on a retailer’s graduate scheme is a popular way for graduates to enter a career in buying and this is typically an area with plenty of graduate schemes, when compared with other areas of retail. However, there are also some individual entry-level vacancies available..

Graduates usually 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.

Take a look at here . Use our guide to retail work experience to help you explore your options.

Strengthen your job applications by reading our tips on how to write a great graduate retail CV .

Key skills for retail buyers

  • Commercial awareness
  • Entrepreneurial thinking
  • Decisiveness
  • Ability to cope with pressure
  • Numeracy
  • IT skills
  • Good teamworking skills
  • Negotiating skills
  • 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

View our graduate retail job vacancies.

targetjobs editorial advice

This describes editorially independent and impartial content, which has been written and edited by the targetjobs content team. Any external contributors featuring in the article are in line with our non-advertorial policy, by which we mean that we do not promote one organisation over another.

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