Area of Work: Buying

Buying revolves around products, the industry and customers. While the basic skills of a buyer can be transferred to any organisation, a clear understanding of your company’s brand and target audience is essential.

Job responsibilities

As a retail buyer your responsibilities includes selecting and purchasing the merchandise to be sold at stores as well as buying and stocking items for operational use. The workload is not a day at the mall. It can get intense with tight deadlines and various ongoing negotiations, which require business acumen and entrepreneurial expertise. Buyers also need to know what’s in and what’s not with the consumers and stock up the retail outlets accordingly.

Depending on the organisation that you work for and your work scope, you job can involve buying for selected brands, a department, a store or an entire chain. Your responsibilities will vary according to the size of the organisation and its structure. You may specialise in certain types of products such as fresh produce and children’s clothing or a brand such as VOIR.

Since retail is customer-centric, demands are determined by current trends and changes in the needs, desires, lifestyles and aspirations of the various consumer groups. Your job will include doing research on consumers and products, while sourcing, developing and introducing new product ideas to manufacturers. All the time, you will be ensuring that all purchases are within the company’s and consumers’ budget. A good eye for detail will help you pick out imperfections and compare the quality of the products. In addition to trends, buyers need to be updated on existing legislations, especially 
pertaining to food and cosmetic items.

However, it doesn’t stop there. Post purchase evaluation is crucial. You will find yourself analysing sales data to find out the customers’ receptiveness of the products and deciding on new strategies to push the products or remove them from the shelves. You will also need to keep a close eye on competitor activities to stay ahead. Then there is keeping in close contact with suppliers, reviewing and selecting samples from various sources and conducting factory checks to ensure that your products are produced within ethical and safe standards.

Working environment

Buyers usually work from offices, not stores, but you won’t be spending much time at your desk. Travel is a must, so it is good to have a means of transportation. One of the perks is getting to see new things and meet new people all the time. You might even find yourself on the other side of the globe, searching for the best items and prices.

Key skills and qualities

  • Ability to take risks
  • Analytical
  • Decisive
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Excellent communication skills at all levels
  • Logical.

Getting in

Positions are highly competitive. Thus, the best way to get in is through the back door. Traditionally you would have to do an apprenticeship and work up from there. Nowadays, aspiring buyers can have a head start by obtaining a degree in strategic purchasing or retail. Nevertheless, contacts and references will be advantageous.