The retail buyer is in charge of choosing products that will be sold in a retail store. With a given budget, the buyer is tasked with picking products for the store based on the demand and the trends in the industry (which, in turn, are dictated by the price and the availability of the items) and the standards and needs of the company.
While the job may seem easy enough, it can be quite complex, since it’s deeply connected with consumer patterns and, in some cases, future needs and trends.
For instance, in the fashion industry, retail buyers do not only need to review the sales performance of the current items, they also have to predict what items will sell next season. They need to respond to changes in order to keep the store relevant.
Salary & benefits
Retail buyers are on the market for £20,000 to £25,000 per annum, although the actual amount depends on the size of the company.
Bigger fashion retailers, for instance, may provide bigger salaries.
Retail buyers coordinate with other departments of the company in order to make an informed choice. For instance, buyers will need to consult with the sales department to know the performance of a certain item.
If it’s not performing well (or, rather, if it isn’t selling as well as expected), the retail buyer has to decide if the company has to replace it to ensure continuous income.
Since they act as a liaison to suppliers, they are also responsible for coming up with contacts. The job is actually a combination of office and field work. Retail buyers need to go out of the office to meet with potential suppliers and look for new products to sell, so the job involves a lot of day-to-day moving about and meeting with prospective clients.
Although, in general, the position doesn’t really require specific academic credentials, this changes from industry to industry. General retailers (for example, those who work for groceries) may require their buyers to have business or management-related degrees.
Fashion retailers may also prefer those with degrees relevant to their field, or at the very least a passion for the industry that goes beyond skin deep. Buyers, after all, need industry know-how to understand and predict trends.
Retail buyers should be creative and analytical, able to decipher data and figures to inform their decisions. Commercial awareness, of course, is a must here, especially for retail stores that are not engaged in the selling of high-demand consumer goods.
Training & progression
Retail buyers usually start as junior buyers and assistants, where they can learn by working with senior buyers and staff members. Those who want to explore the field further can finish an MBA to beef up their management credentials. This can be used to progress in other areas in the corporate world.
Qualified retail buyers can be promoted as store managers, marketing heads, or heads of product management, amongst others. However, retail buyers may need to move to other companies if career progression proves difficult in their current company.
This isn’t likely, since retail buyers can progress into several other departments, especially for buyers with management and marketing credentials.