An associate buyer assists with the process of placing and evaluating orders for goods, whether for stores, institutions, or other settings. This person supports the buyer, a person who works in a supervisory position to manage acquisitions for a company. Associate buyers need to be familiar with the vendors and systems used by a company. Good communication skills are useful, as is an attention to detail, and a college degree can be helpful, although not required, for people seeking work in this field.
The level of responsibility can vary depending on the industry and the company. Part of the work of an associate buyer can involve attending conferences and trade shows, meeting with product representatives, and performing other research to learn more about what is available. For retail stores, this includes trend research to find out which products people are likely to want in the coming season. Trend-spotting can require research in the streets and online to identify emerging trends in time to place orders for products that may be in demand.
Some associate buyers have the capacity to place orders, while others may need to run recommendations by a buyer to get approval first. They interact with vendors to discuss the shipping and handling of products, and may supervise reception of the order. Associate buyers can unpack, verify that the invoice and shipping contents match, and may enter products into inventory. The associate buyer can also supervise other personnel as they stock the new products, whether they are putting office supplies in a storage cabinet or shelving new books in a store.
Associate buyers need an attention to detail, so they can anticipate needs before they occur and place an order to have the products in hand when people will need them. It's also important to be able to research products, vendors, and sources, to find the best product for a company's needs, considering issues like cost, country of origin, sustainability, and other potential concerns. People skills help, as an associate buyer may need to supervise personnel and must also resolve disputes with vendors if problems arise with an order.
People interested in careers in this field may find it helpful to obtain an associate's degree in a topic like business management, although this is not required. Experience under the supervision of a buyer is critical. Most people obtain positions in this field through apprenticeship and training on the job, rather than formal education. Once trained and experienced with a company, it may be possible to rise through the ranks to become an associate buyer or switch employers to another company with more opportunities.