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.
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What Does A Buyer Do? 

As a Retail Buyer or Purchasing Agent, your responsibilities include selecting and purchasing the merchandise to be sold at stores, as well as buying and stocking items for operational use. You're also in charge of negotiating deals with suppliers, researching possible item selections and taking inventory of current products.

Many may think that a buyer's workload is just a day at the mall - that's far from the truth! A buyer's job 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-trend and what’s not with the consumers' buying behaviour, and stock up the retail outlets accordingly.

Types Of Buyers

The two main types of Buyers are Retail Buyers and Corporate Buyers. A Retail Buyer works primarily for a retail store, finding products for the business to privately label and resell. They must know how to negotiate with wholesalers to decide on a fair price for products that stay within the company’s budget. Retail Buyers regularly search for new products that represent the business’ brand and fits in well with their other products. 

Corporate Buyers are responsible for researching and finding products that meet the business’ needs and help increase their performance. They constantly evaluate different products and their prices to ensure the products are high quality and stay within the company’s budget. 

How Does A Buyer Do It? 

Depending on the organisation that you work for and your work scope, your 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’ budgets. 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 your own means of transportation. One of the perks of being a Buyer 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
  • Negotiation skills to make better deals
  • Analytical
  • Decisive
  • Entrepreneurial
  • Excellent communication skills 
  • Logical
  • Teamwork 
  • An understanding of purchase order software platforms 

Getting In

Typically, many large corporate retailers require Buyers to have at least a bachelor’s degree in business, accounting or a related field. Buyers may also elect to pursue a graduate degree such as an MBA (master’s degree in business administration) to further their qualifications and advancement opportunities. To be competitive, Buyer candidates could have a Certified Professional in Supply Management (CPSM) or related certification.