If you enjoy shopping and you’re enthusiastic with your finger on the pulse, then you might well be interested in a career as a retail buyer. The competition for this role is extremely fierce as this position is an exciting and creative part of the retail industry and consequently these highly sought after jobs attract many suitable candidates. Consequently, it is not the easiest job to get into and in order to be successful you will need to be extremely dedicated.
The job description
This is a hugely responsible position, since you will be the one deciding what items to buy for the department. You’ll usually be working as part of a team to research the forthcoming season’s fashions and then to negotiate with suppliers to get the right prices and the right amount of stock, and to ensure it reaches the store on time. If you decide that red capes are going to be all the rage next winter and they fail to sell, then it will be your head on the chopping block.
It’s not all about shopping however. The retail buyer will also have to keep a close eye on budget and profits, working out how much they have to spend and how much they need to take in sales for the year. It will also be their responsibility to keep a close eye on sales and make sure they re-stock popular products before they sell out.
What qualifications are needed?
There are some retail buying degree courses as well as a number of higher education courses, including HNDs, although many of the large retail chains will consider graduates with other degrees including management and creative subjects. Often these stores have their own graduate training scheme in place and will require a 2.2 or above. However, experience in the industry also counts for a lot, and it is possible to work your way up from the shop floor to the role of buyer, although this is more likely in a small store.
What type of skills are needed?
- Numeracy – one of the key factors is to be able to analyse figures, working out gross profits, budgets, and forecast sales figures
- Good communication – the buyer will have to communicate these figures to area managers
- Creativity – you need to be able to visualise the perfect collection, have your eye on trends, and understand what the customer wants
- Product awareness – It is important to know the products, the pricing and the quality, and know what your competitors are selling
- Motivated and enthusiastic – you’ll be working as part of a team so it is essential that your enthusiasm shines through and that you can motivate your team
- Good organisational skills
Most retail buyers are office based at the company’s headquarters. Since many large retail chains have their headquarters in or around London, you will likely be based in the South of England. Office hours tend to be around 8.30 am – 6.30 pm. There may be some travel involved and you will often have to attend trade fairs or exhibitions and so the hours can be longer at these times.
This can depend on whether you have joined a dedicated graduate training scheme. If you have, then be prepared to start at around £16,000 a year but usually graduates will be fast tracked and your salary should rise accordingly. After two years it should be around the £20,000 level.
If, on the other hand, you’ve worked your way up through the company then the average salary is about £25,000 for 6-7 years experience and senior buyers in large chain stores can expect to be earning between £35,000- £40,000. Good retail buyers are often head hunted by rival companies eager to get their hands on their contact books. They can command a significantly higher salary, since the company have already expressed their interest in you and are keen to get your expertise and contacts on board.
If you’re still eager to become a buyer after reading this, then my advice would be to get some retail experience. Once you’ve at least got your foot on the bottom rung of the ladder, the only way is up.