Merchandise Buyer Job Description
Merchandise buyers select and purchase products for the inventories of wholesale or retail companies. Because good product-market fit is key, merchandise buyers perform research and analysis to decide on product mixes and suppliers and create sales strategies. Afterward, they procure the products, ensuring they arrive on time and in good condition; they regularly manage inventory, replenishing and rotating stock as needed. The most common setup for this role is full-time work inside an office, with occasional travel to meet up with suppliers; it can be demanding and fast-paced because of the need to adjust to shifting customer demand.
Merchandise Buyer Duties and Responsibilities
Based on our analysis of current job listings, merchandise buyers perform these duties no matter the employer or specialization:
Analyze Customer Needs
Merchandise buyers base their business decisions on a thorough analysis of customer needs. They conduct market research, staying up-to-date with industry trends and competitor activity and actively monitoring sales to determine which products sell the most.
Develop Sales Strategies
Merchandise buyers set the overall merchandising direction through detailed short- and long-term sales strategies. These include data-backed product selections aligned with customer needs and requests.
Merchandiser buyers put a great deal of thought into choosing suppliers, assessing them in terms of reliability, product quality, shipping speed, and cost. Once they’ve ascertained that suppliers can handle requirements, they negotiate prices, finalize contracts, and maintain good working relationships while ensuring that products satisfy customers.
Merchandise buyers place product orders with suppliers. Since timely arrival is crucial, merchandise buyers track order status, update sales and inventory teams, and follow up with suppliers to avoid delays. They also verify the quality of received products, comparing these against packing lists for accuracy, and record all orders and invoices.
Inventory maintenance is crucial to a store’s daily operations, so merchandise buyers must be aware of inventory levels at all times, preparing reports regularly and anticipating demand. They manage the whole gamut of inventory processes, including stocking, rotating, and discarding products.
Merchandise Buyer Skills and Qualifications
Merchandise buyers have a keen understanding of market dynamics, combining analytical thinking and organizational ability to curate products and bring these to consumers. Along with a bachelor’s degree in business or marketing, employers seek those with the following skills:
- Supply chain management – merchandise buyers are adept at carrying out various phases of the supply chain, from contacting suppliers to storing products for eventual display, and they have the industry expertise to make profit-generating decisions
- Data analysis – successful merchandise buyers analyze raw data about sales, customer behavior, and market trends to generate forecasts and find business opportunities
- Problem-solving – since merchandise buyers often adapt to customers and suppliers, stock issues are common; this job involves a certain degree of unpredictability
- Organizational – merchandise buyers keep track of several details at once, monitoring purchase orders and inventory conditions for multiple items efficiently and without error
- Collaboration – because merchandise buyers coordinate heavily with suppliers and internal staff, they must be able to work well with others, even in difficult, high-pressure situations that require prompt action
Tools of the Trade
To accomplish all of their job duties, merchandise buyers use the following tools:
- Merchandising software (NetSuite, Springboard Retail, Stratus Retail)
- Microsoft Suite (Word, Excel, PowerPoint)
Merchandise Buyer Education and Training
Merchandise buyers typically need a bachelor’s degree in business administration, marketing, or a related field. However, some employers may accept candidates with only a high school diploma and a certification in purchasing or supply management from recognized institutions such as American Purchasing Society, Institute for Supply Management, or Chartered Institute of Procurement and Supply. Employers also look for one to five years of previous merchandising experience, depending on the difficulty of the role.
Merchandise Buyer Salary and Outlook
According to data from the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (BLS), purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents have an overall median annual wage of $66,000. The lowest paid 10 percent of workers earn less than $38,000, while the highest paid earn more than $123,000 annually. In comparison, those specifically in the retail industry tend to earn around $51,000.
From 2016 to 2026, job openings for wholesale and retail buyers are likely to decrease by 2 percent, as more companies are automating job procurement functions or outsourcing these to third parties.
We’ve come up with the following list of resources to help you explore a career as a merchandise buyer:
American Purchasing Society – APS is an international organization that caters to professionals interested in purchasing. It made its mark on the industry by establishing the first purchaser certification program, where takers must pass both a written exam and a reference check.
The Purchasing Chessboard: 64 Methods to Reduce Costs and Increase Value with Suppliers – This book presents an interesting perspective on purchasing, listing down sixty-four techniques that merchandise buyers can use and combine in different situations and draw inspiration from when problem-solving.
Institute for Supply Management – Obtain your certification from this nonprofit supply management organization, which is more than a hundred years old and the largest among its niche worldwide. Members can further avail of networking opportunities, educational reports, and publication access
The Procurement and Supply Manager’s Desk Reference – This is a comprehensive guide to procurement, tackling fundamental topics such as selecting suppliers, creating business strategies, and optimizing processes. It comes with step-by-step instructions and user-friendly checklists
The Art of Procurement – Check out this diverse weekly podcast featuring in-depth discussions with negotiators, buyers, company founders, and other professionals who have used procurement strategies significantly in their career
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