Retail Buyer Job Description
Retail Buyers are responsible for researching, selecting and procuring merchandise and goods for retail companies. They may work in large department stores or smaller specialty shops. Most Retail Buyers have an area of expertise, such as shoes, women’s fashion or accessories but if working for a smaller company they may be required to purchase a large assortment of different kinds of merchandise.
A Retail Buyer often works independently, but will report to store management. In very large organizations some Retail Buyers may work in teams and divide the duties of procurement amongst the team members. Due to a rise in outsourcing Buyers and Purchasing Agents can expect a job growth rate of just 2 percent through 2024, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. This will add about 7,200 jobs to these sectors during this time.
Retail Buyers Duties and Responsibilities
The tasks of a Retail Buyer are numerous and can vary depending on the type of retail, but there are several core responsibilities one can expect as a Retail Buyer. A review of current job listings identified the following primary tasks and responsibilities.
Research and Anticipate Sales Trends
Retail Buyers must conduct research in order to make their purchases. This may include analyzing sales trends, conducting consumer opinion survey, and keeping abreast of the latest fashions or trends in their niche. A retailer is only successful if their merchandise is competitive and current, so research is a very important part of the Retail Buyer’s job.
Work with Vendors
Retail Buyers will need to foster positive relations with the vendors they will be purchasing from. Retail Buyers are in charge of negotiating prices, obtaining quotes and settling on agreements with their vendors. If purchasing customized goods, vendors and Retail Buyers will often work together closely in creating the desired products.
Perform Budget Analyses
Forecasting prices and market trends are very important as Retail Buyers often order merchandise months in advance of it going out on store shelves. In order to stay within budget, Retail Buyers must perform cost analyses and scenario analyses. Some Retail Buyers may work with their budget department on these tasks, while others will complete these tasks independently.
Once the research has been completed and the merchandise ordered, the job of the Retail Buyer is not over. Retail Buyers are tasked with monitoring the progress of their orders and ensuring they arrive on time and in the right quantities. They also will need to do a quality check when receiving the goods to make sure the products meet their standards. If any issues arise the Retail Buyer will often contact the vendor directly to sort them out.
Retail Buyer Skills
Retail Buyers are self-motivated individuals with analytical minds. They have excellent communication and interpersonal skills and work well with limited supervision. They should also be detail-oriented and work well in fast-paced environments. Employers look for candidates with all of these traits as well as the traits listed here.
Core skills: Based on job listings we looked at, employers want Retail Buyers with these core skills. If you want to work as a Retail Buyer, focus on the following.
- Understanding the buying process and procurement/supply chain function
- Contract administration
- Proficient in common computer programs, such as Microsoft Word and Excel
- Knowledge of sales practices
- Basic mathematical skills
- Experience in negotiation tactics
Advanced skills: While most employers did not require the following skills, multiple job listings included them as preferred. Add these to your Retail Buyer toolbox and broaden your career options.
- College degree or extensive background in retail
- Ability to travel within the country as well as overseas
Retail Buyer Resources
The internet is a great source for more information on becoming a Retail Buyer. We compiled a list of sites that will inspire, inform and entertain you on your path to a career as a Retail Buyer.
On the Web
National Retail Federation – The NRF is an association dedicated to all things retail related. Their site is full of wonderful resources such as buying guides, retail technology standard lists, and a library full of articles.
Both Sides of the Retail Table – This unique blog offers readers two perspectives. Romy Taormina is an entrepreneur and Vanessa Ting is a Retail Buyer and together they blog about retail issues lending readers their opinions and perspectives based on their roles. A very interesting and thought-provoking read.
Chronicles of a Fashion Buyer – Mercedes R. Gonzalez has been in the fashion buying business since 1990. In this informational and entertaining blog, Gonzalez pulls on her own experiences to write each post.
@AttireAccMag – Follow the tweets of Attire Accessories, a leading fashion accessories trade magazine for retailers and buyers. See the latest products and read the latest industry news.
@RetailPath – Former Retail Buyer for Target and current entrepreneur, Vanessa Ting, tweets about all things retail-related.
Retail Buyer Books
Retail Buying: From Basics to Fashion – A comprehensive book that provides step-by-step instructions on procurement methods and tasks. Designed for the purchasing student, it contains many useful activities and prompts.
Math for Merchandising: A Step-by-Step Approach – This resource is wonderful for illustrating and breaking down the mathematical skills and processes a Retail Buyer will need to know.
A Buyer’s Life: A Concise Guide to Retail Planning and Forecasting – A Retail Buyer with over 20 years of experience, Dana Connell is qualified to write this resource about the importance of forecasting and planning.
American Purchasing Society – APS was founded in 1969 and was the first society to offer certification for purchasers and buyers. This society focuses on professional development as well as creating a network for purchasers, buyers, and executives.
American Production and Inventory Control Society – Founded in 1957, APICS has over 40,000 members who work in some aspect of supply chain industry. From management to purchasing, every aspect of this industry is represented. The society provides education, resources, best-practices, and networking opportunities.
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