A fashion buyer purchases clothing and/or accessories for a retail apparel store or chain of stores. Building and maintaining good relationships with suppliers is a key part of the job. The person's main goal is to purchase fashions that their target customer base will want to buy.
While it may seem obvious that a fashion buyer must keep his or her target customer in mind when purchasing fashions for a retail store, this is an absolutely crucial component of the job. Retail clothing stores make their profits from product sales; if customers aren't buying the products, the store doesn't turn enough profit. Therefore, buyers have to understand the clothing needs, desires, and budget of the store's typical shoppers.
The daily duties of most fashion buyers include almost constant communication — either by telephone or email — with different suppliers. They order samples and must be sure to follow up in a timely way with suppliers to keep a positive rapport with them. When ordering clothing and/or accessories, buyers must negotiate prices and delivery times with suppliers. They always have to be aware of what the store's selling price on each purchased item will be as well as what to have in the store for each season.
A fashion buyer may have a team of assistant buyers to manage. This will depend on the size of the store. Entry-level employees report to, and are often trained by, the senior buyer. While the senior buyer delegates purchasing tasks to junior buyers, he or she must oversee and usually approve all purchases made for the store.
These fashion professionals usually travel a great deal. A senior retail buyer is likely to attend national fashion and industry trade shows as well as similar events overseas. He or she will also likely travel to meet face-to-face with suppliers, and France and China are common destinations. France is a major source of fashion trends, while China is a popular location for suppliers of finished garments.
An assistant fashion buyer doesn't usually travel at all until after at least a year of training is completed. The traveling duties of a buyer are considered to be a necessary and significant part of the career. New trends can often be discovered and supplier relationships are usually strengthened through face-to-face meetings.