Retail buyers purchase goods in bulk or large quantities for resale in shops, online, through mail order catalogues or on TV shopping channels, for example. They buy goods from importers, manufacturers and wholesalers. They select items according to the nature of the shops, the money available and the public demand for the goods.
Also known as
- Buyer, Retail
- Purchasing Officer - Retail
- Stock Controller
Video: - Stephen: Retail Buyer
Video: - Sahar: Fashion Buyer
Retail buyers buy goods from importers, manufacturers, growers, wholesalers or fashion houses to sell at a profit. They attend trade and/or fashion shows, visit warehouses and see representatives who call with samples and catalogues.
Buyers also have a crucial role in product development, talking to manufacturers or designers about possible new lines. They liaise with retail merchandisers over the quantity and mix of goods to buy. They often have to plan months in advance.
The success of the business depends on the buyer getting the right goods, from the right suppliers at the right price, to the right place just at the right time. To do this, they must keep to their budget and work out whether the goods will sell once the firm's mark-up is added to the cost price.
They take into consideration store policy, public demand and the economic situation. They analyse current data from sales outlets as well as past sales figures. They also have to anticipate trends. For example, they might need to find new sources of organic food, fairly traded products or 'greener' electrical appliances.
Buyers build and manage relationships with their suppliers. They negotiate and agree on contracts, set quality standards and arrange delivery dates, so that goods arrive on time and warehouses are not under- or over-stocked. Then they monitor how profitable the goods are and how well they sell.
Some buyers might need to make business trips overseas (for example, to find or meet designers or suppliers, place orders or negotiate contracts in person).
In a small shop, the manager or the owner often does the buying.
Being able to read, write and speak Welsh may be an advantage when you’re looking for work in Wales.
Personal Qualities and Skills
As a retail buyer, you will need to be able to:
- Anticipate trends.
- Build up detailed product knowledge.
- Work as part of a team.
- Understand the way people work and what influences their decisions.
- Prioritise tasks.
- Use IT.
- Work under pressure to meet deadlines.
- Take risks and learn from mistakes.
You should have:
- Good written and spoken communication skills.
- Confident and decisive negotiation skills.
- An analytical mind in order to interpret figures and other information.
- Number skills.
- Good time-management and planning skills.
Foreign language skills could be required if you are buying goods from other countries.
Pay and Opportunities
Salary rates for buyers vary depending on the company and the level of responsibility. The pay rates given below are approximate.
Retail buyers earn in the range of £20,000 - £23,000 a year, rising to £30,000 - £37,500. Higher earners can make over £40,000 a year.
Hours of work
Buyers usually work office hours, Monday to Friday, with occasional late evening or weekend work.
This career could include working on a
Future skills needsT
The following skills shortages have been identified within the industry:
- managerial skills
- communication skills
- teamworking skills
- problem-solving skills.
Where could I work?
Employers are multiple and department stores. Retail buyers normally work in the central buying department.
Opportunities for retail buyers occur in some towns and cities throughout the UK. However, most opportunities are found with large retailers in London and in some other large cities.
Where are vacancies advertised?
Vacancies are advertised in local/national newspapers, on job boards and large employers' websites, on Universal Jobmatch and at Jobcentre Plus.
Entry Routes and Training
Competition for places on stores' training schemes is intense. Most stores recruit trainees with a degree.
Degrees are available in retailing, buying, supply chain management and business. Some business degrees have purchasing or supply chain management options. Numerate subjects such as economics could also be useful.
A small number of universities offer degrees or foundation degrees in retail buying or fashion buying. Foundation degrees in retailing and business-related subjects are also available.
Stores run their own in-house training schemes that usually last for about a year, perhaps longer for non-graduates. These might involve placements in a variety of selling and operational support departments such as accounting services, distribution and customer services.
To complement this, trainees usually attend courses on management skills, technology, communication, buying and merchandising.
Diplomas in Supply Chain Management are available at levels 3 and 5.
Professional qualifications can be obtained through the examinations of The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS), which can be studied in several ways including part-time or by flexible learning at a number of colleges or by distance learning.
CIPS offers a ladder of qualifications from the Certificate in Procurement and Supply Operations to the Professional Diploma in Procurement and Supply.
Relevant courses or experience could provide exemptions from certain study units. A small number of universities offer degree or postgraduate courses that are accredited by CIPS. Contact CIPS for further details.
The British Independent Retailers Association (bira) offers a Buying Programme consisting of a one-day Introduction to Buying seminar, a Buying and Merchandising Course for those already working in the profession, and a residential Retail Buying Academy for buyers with some experience.
Previous experience within a retail environment will be really useful for this career.
Retail buyers can progress to senior buyer and management posts.
Many entrants to in-house training schemes are graduates.
For entry to a degree course in any subject, the usual minimum requirement is:
- 2/3 A levels
- GCSEs at grade C/4 or above in 2/3 other subjects.
You are likely to need GCSEs in English and Maths at grade C/4 or above.
Alternatives to A levels include:
- BTEC Level 3 qualifications
- the International Baccalaureate Diploma.
However, course requirements vary, so please check college/university websites very carefully.
Some universities accept the Welsh Baccalaureate as equivalent to 1 A-level.
It is illegal for any organisation to set age limits for entry to employment, education or training, unless they can show there is a real need to have these limits.
Some entrants have developed relevant skills by working in retail sales or purchasing administration.
If you don't have the qualifications needed to enter your chosen degree or HND course, a college or university Access course (for example, Access to Business) could be the way in.
These courses are designed for people who have not followed the usual routes into higher education. No formal qualifications are usually needed, but you should check this with individual colleges.
There are degree and postgraduate courses in business available by distance learning.
The Open University offers foundation degrees in business and retail management.
The University of Stirling, together with the Institute of Retail Studies (IRS), offers an MBA in Retailing, by distance learning. This includes a module on merchandising and buying within a retail organisation.
- 7% of retail buyers work part-time.
- 17% have flexible hours.
- 3% of employees work on a temporary basis.
Professional institutesProfessional institutes have the following roles:
- To support their members.
- To protect the public by keeping standards high in their professions.
The Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply is the main professional institute for this career.
Open University (OU)
Tel: 0845 3006090
Retail, fashion and hospitality industries
Tel: 020 8340 3366
National Skills Academy for Food & Drink
Sector Skills Council for the food and drinks industry
Food and drink careers
A Career in Retail
Address: 4th Floor, 93 Newman Street, London W1T 3EZ
Tel: 020 7462 5060
Fashion Retail Academy
Address: 15 Gresse Street, London W1T 1QL
Tel: 020 7307 2345
Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS)
Address: Easton House, Church Street, Easton on the Hill, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 3NZ
Tel: 01780 756777
Graduate Guide to Procurement
Publisher: Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS)
The Buying Game
Publisher: Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply (CIPS) and Traidcraft