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What does a Retail Buyer do?

Dee Saale
Updated Mar 02, 2024
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A retail buyer purchases products to be sold in retail stores. She is responsible for studying consumer buying trends, analyzing the market, and determining the newest styles and products. For example, in the clothing industry, the buyer must consider all of the newest fashion trends and then determine which of those trends fits the demographics of her particular shop.

There are many aspects to retail buyer job. A professional in this position typically must negotiate contracts with the wholesaler or the person selling the product. For example, if she finds an electronic gadget that fits the demographics of her store, she must try to negotiate a contract and attempt to buy the product for the least amount of money. Then, she may work with the financial operator of the store to determine how much to charge the consumer for the product.

Another job duty of a person in this position is managing the stock of her store. If a product sells well, the buyer will need to keep the product in the store inventory. Typically, if a consumer wants to purchase an item and it is not available at one store, she will purchase the item at a different store. Consequently, managing the inventory is quite important.

Among the retail buyer’s hardest job duties is forecasting the buying trends. She will work closely with market analysts to determine how much money people will spend during a particular fiscal quarter. She can use this analysis to decide whether the price point of the products will be higher or lower. For example, a clothing store may carry more items in the $50 range versus the $500 range if consumers are not expected to spend as much money.

The retail buyer often must also determine the kinds of things that consumers will want to purchase. For example, she must consider whether the consumer will prefer brightly-colored electronics or metallic ones, swooped or square necklines, animal prints or stripes, and even straight skis or double-tipped skis. To learn more about the trends and new products, she may attend fashion shows and conferences. For example, new clothing lines are displayed during New York’s fashion week, electronic gadgets are revealed during the Electronics show in Las Vegas, and new skiing fashions are seen during Colorado’s ski exposition.

Every time the buyer makes a purchase, she must assess the financial risk. For example, if she chooses a clothing line and the consumer is not drawn to it, it could be devastating to the store. If consumer traffic is not high, there will be fewer sales and less revenue for the store. Ultimately, the success of the store rests in the hands of the retail buyer.

Education requirements for retail buyers vary by organization and industry. Many large employers prefer candidates with four-year degrees in business or economics. Some employers in specialized manufacturing industries may require master's degrees in their specific fields. After successfully finding a job, a new retail buyer can often expect an interim training period of one to five years before working independently.

PracticalAdultInsights is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Dee Saale
By Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is especially interested in topics relating to medicine, legal issues, and home improvement, which are her specialty when contributing to PracticalAdultInsights.

Discussion Comments

By Bhutan — On Mar 14, 2011

"@BrickBack"- The retail buyer career is glamorous but there is a high degree of stress involved because you have to know what is going to be hot a year in advance and people that follow fashion might be able to do this well, but it is not always an easy job.

The buyer’s bonuses are tied to the profitability of the department and it is referred to as the gross margin. Many people that seek a retail buyer position usually work in retail management and then transition to the buying office as an assistant buyer and eventually a buyer.

An assistant buyer is more of a clerical job but you do get to understand the assortment patterns and the pricing that goes with each of the vendors so it will give you a ballpark of what you should look for when you become a buyer. This is really the best retail buyer training.

By BrickBack — On Mar 12, 2011

My sister had a retail buyer career and actually started in retail management and worked her way up to a retail buyer position.

She had an Associate’s degree from the Laboratory Institute of Merchandising in New York and took classes at F.I.T which was the Fashion Institute of Technology.

She was able to find work after graduation through her internships. When she became a buyer she was in charge of the juniors department which consisted of very trendy clothing. She was buying for a company that was based in Florida but would often take buying trips to New York and occasionally she would go to Europe to study the fashion trends.

She would meet with vendors in New York and negotiate an assortment and price for each garment that she selected for all of her stores. Usually she would buy clothing several seasons ahead and had to make sure that she bought the right mixture of merchandise because if not the store would not be profitable and she might be out of a job.

Dee Saale

Dee Saale

Dee is a freelance writer based in Colorado. She has a B.A. in English Literature, as well as a law degree. Dee is...

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