Career as a retail buyer

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Jemma Vincent works as an assistant retail buyer in lingerie and nightwear for a clothing retail chain. Her job allows her to put her degree in Textile Design and Management to good use.

What does your job as a retail buyer involve?

My boss and I are responsible for developing the underwear and nightwear products that go into stores throughout the country. I am involved with the total process of creating new products, from the first designs to getting the products in the shops!

Developing clothes that will sell means that I have to look out for new trends using sources such as the internet and the cat walks. I made colour palettes and choose fabrics and trims.

I also make sure that our products are made to a high standard, deal with suppliers and negotiate prices, and contribute to the look and style of the clothing displays in the actual stores.

Is there a typical day in your job?

My day varies quite a lot, but most of my time is spent developing samples and planning clothing ranges. I also spend a lot of time analysing the sales figures for our products and using this information to make decisions on the ranges we are currently developing.

Do you get to work outside of the office?

Sometimes I attend fit sessions where the garments are tried out on a model. I also have meetings with suppliers, looking at samples, negotiating prices and agreeing delivery schedules.

What do you particularly enjoy about being a retail buyer?

It is good to see your product developed after all the preparation work. It's also a great feeling to know that what you have created is selling well in the stores!

What are your hours like?

My hours are officially nine to five, but I work later than this on a regular basis. You have to be willing to stay until the job is done and be able to adapt to busy periods.

What sort of training have you had to become a retail buyer?

I work with a number of IT systems to raise orders, produce analysis reports of sales and generate price information for tickets. When I first started in this job, I was trained on all of these systems and could attend any other courses I felt I needed.

I can also attend personal and professional development courses on areas such as communication and negotiation. However, a lot of my professional development is through learning the job.

What kinds of skills and qualities do you need in this job?

You need to be very outgoing and confident. Communication skills, both written and verbal, are very useful in dealing with suppliers and with your team. Creativity is very important – you need to have an eye for colour and understand how different fabrics work. You also need a strong fashion sense, good negotiating skills and to be computer literate.

How would you like your career to develop in the future?

I would like to progress to working as a buyer in lingerie or fashion.

Jemma's route to her career as a retail buyer

  • Degree in Textile Design and Management.
  • Employed in fashion/retail recruitment.
  • Worked as a buyers' administration assistant.
  • Assistant fashion buyer

Jemma's tips

  • Gaining experience in a retail environment, for example working in a clothe shop, can help you progress into this area.
  • You need to have enthusiasm for what you do – be willing to do the hours and learn whilst you work.

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Salary of a retail buyer

  • Salaries vary according to the size and nature of the employer.
  • Salaries for buyers' administrative assistants range from £15,000 to £17,000 a year.
  • Assistant buyers can earn £17,000 to £30,000.
  • Buyers can earn £30,000 and over.

Becoming a retail buyer

  • Most retailers require applicants to have degrees. Relevant subject areas such as retail or business can be helpful. For fashion retailing, a degree in a related subject can be useful.
  • It is sometimes possible to enter this type of work with an HND or equivalent level qualification.
  • Some large retail companies provide graduate management trainee schemes, with progression to a buying role. Alternatively, you may be able to work your way up with relevant experience within a company.
  • The career structure for this area is usually buyers' administrative assistant to assistant buyer, then to buyer.
  • It is then possible to progress to head of buying and directing.

Modified: 16 June 2013

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