How To Become a Retail Buyer

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated March 12, 2021 | Published February 8, 2021

Updated March 12, 2021

Published February 8, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

If you enjoy working in a retail environment, consider becoming a retail buyer. Understanding this role and how to pursue a career in this field can set you up for greater success. In this article, we define the role of a retail buyer, explain what a retail buyer does, list the required skills and provide you with steps on how to become a buyer for retail.

Related: Retail Work: The Definitive Guide

What is a retail buyer?

A retail buyer plans, selects and purchases products sold in retail stores. They ensure a retail store or a chain of stores offers products that can attract its customer base and drive a respectable profit. Retail buyers review a store's current selection of products to ensure the store remains competitive in its market. They also source new goods and merchandise and create product assortments to help their business grow.

Related: Learn About Being a Buyer

What does a retail buyer do?

Also known as purchasing agents, retail buyers spend a lot of time in a retail store performing a wide variety of responsibilities. While some work for stores, others may work for chains or a particular department within a store. Some of their responsibilities include the following:

  • Visit and travel to different showrooms and manufacturers.

  • Scout and source new products for purchase.

  • Monitor sales and margins.

  • Analyze market trends to create product assortments and identify growth opportunities and risks.

  • Maintain and update product inventory for consumer satisfaction.

  • Monitor store budgets.

  • Determine if new products can satisfy customers and whether they align with their company or organization.

  • Negotiate product prices and deals with suppliers.

  • Work alongside a merchandise buyer and the rest of the merchandising and operations teams.

  • Build strong vendor relations.

  • Create business plans and promotional programs.

Required skills for retail buyers

Retail buyers need to have a certain set of skills to perform their job successfully. Not only do you need soft skills, but you also need a strong set of job-specific skills. Here are the required skills for a retail buyer:

Product knowledge

Retail buyers need a strong understanding of the products their company sells. For example, when you review your store's existing selection of products, it helps to have information on these products to determine whether or not it's in the store's best interest to continue selling them.

You also need to understand the latest products on the market in order to help your company remain competitive. Knowing about the newest goods and merchandise can help you determine whether they're well-suited for your store and your customer base. When they meet both criteria, it's easier for your company to generate a profit.

Customer knowledge

Successful retail buyers need to understand not only their products, but also their customers. This includes knowing how to evaluate data analytics and patterns in their customers' shopping behavior and consumption habits. Having this knowledge allows you to source new products for your store, which can provide for a greater customer experience overall. Ultimately, understanding your target market can help you make more strategic decisions that can benefit both the store and your customers.

Communication skills

Retail buyers need to effectively communicate with vendors and different company teams, such as the merchandising and operations teams. Having successful interactions with a variety of parties allows your job to run smoothly and helps ensure the success of the company.

Analytical skills

In order to become a successful retail buyer, you need to use your analytical skills to monitor market trends. Analyzing both market and industry trends allows you to use your findings to your advantage. For example, knowing what's popular in your industry can help you determine which new products you want to purchase for your company. When you buy the right products, it can attract more customers and help your company remain competitive.

Negotiation skills

In order to get the best deals on new products and merchandise, you need strong negotiation skills as a retail buyer. Having this skill allows you to make a deal with vendors that benefits your company.

Related: 25 Excellent Tips for How To Work in Retail

How to become a retail buyer

In order to pursue a career as a retail buyer, you need to meet the job qualifications. Though companies have their own set of requirements, you typically have to meet some of the same qualifications no matter where you work. Use these steps to become a retail buyer:

1. Earn a high school diploma

Complete your high school education by earning a high school diploma. Most companies require at least a high school diploma for employment as a retail buyer. Some schools even offer classes such as merchandising, marketing and advertising, which can help you in your future career.

2. Earn a bachelor's degree

Though you may find employment as a retail buyer with just a high school diploma, consider pursuing a bachelor's degree. Earning this degree may present you with additional job opportunities and provide you with a greater amount of knowledge needed for this career.

For example, if you earn a bachelor's degree in retail merchandising or in business with a concentration in retailing, you can learn more about retail buying and the various retail concepts. Many of these programs even require an internship which can give you hands-on experience in the industry.

3. Gain experience

Prepare for your career as a retail buyer by starting as a retail salesperson during your high school or collegiate career. Working in this profession can help you learn more about what it's like to work in a retail environment, all while giving you the chance to improve your soft and transferable skills.

4. Earn your certification

Once you find employment as a retail buyer, consider pursuing a professional certification. A certification can highlight your expertise to prospective employers and help you stand out among other job applicants.

5. Stay up-to-date on industry and market trends

As you advance in your career, look for ways to keep your retail buyer knowledge current. Consider joining a trade organization or taking continuing education classes. Both allow you to gain more knowledge and help you stay competitive in the field.

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