How to Become a Retail Buyer (With Qualifications and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 6 December 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 fast-paced retail environment, consider a career as a retail buyer. It can be a rewarding and fulfilling career option with diverse and exciting day-to-day responsibilities. Understanding the roles and responsibilities of this job and how to pursue a career as a retail buyer can help you determine if this is a suitable career choice. In this article, we explain what a retail buyer does, list the required skills and provide you with steps on how to become a retail buyer.

What is a retail buyer?

A retail buyer is responsible for planning, selecting and purchasing products sold in retail stores. They maintain and update the product inventories to attract customers to the retail stores and drive a respectable profit for the company. They constantly review the current selection of goods in a store to ensure it remains competitive in the market. Retail buyers also source new merchandise and develop product assortments to help the retail stores grow and maximise profit.

How to become a retail buyer

Here are the steps you can take for how to become a retail buyer:

1. Earn a high school diploma

Complete your high school education by earning a high school diploma. Certain schools offer specialised courses in marketing, business and advertising that you can enrol in to prepare for your future. While many companies prefer at least a bachelor's degree in retail buying or a related field, most of them require a minimum of a high school diploma.

2. Get a bachelor's degree

Even though you may sometimes find a job as a retail buyer with a high school diploma, you can also pursue a bachelor's degree. Having a degree can provide better job opportunities and can help you with career advancement. Sometimes, it can even be a major deciding factor during a job interview.

You can pursue a bachelor's degree specialising in marketing, retail management, retail merchandising or any other related field. Students in these degrees can take courses in sales, merchandising, marketing, management, buying and selling. While a degree in business provides you with the skills to work as a buyer, a fashion or retail degree offers courses in fashion trends, visual merchandising, fashion inventory and apparel merchandising that are also useful for a retail buyer.

3. Look for a job and gain experience

Once you've gained the required education, the next step would be to gain the necessary experience for the role. You can apply for part-time positions as a retail salesperson during your high school or college studies. This can give you an idea about the retail work environment while giving you several opportunities to build essential skills required for a retail buyer. Even though retail buyers do not work directly with customers on the sales floor, having a retail experience can help you understand customers' tastes and preferences and how easily they can shift.

4. Stay updated on market and industry trends

Once you gain employment as a retail buyer, consider becoming a part of a trade association or pursuing a professional certification. This can help you stay abreast of the latest market trends and conditions. Enrolling in continuing education and constantly upgrading your knowledge can help you stand out from the competition and further your career.

Read more: How to Be a Fashion Stylist and Succeed In the Fashion Industry

What does a retail buyer do?

Retail buyers select merchandise and develop product assortments to expand the company's businesses and increase market share. Major retail stores with several locations employ multiple retail buyers. Each buyer may often have a specific segment that they focus on. For example, one retail buyer may focus on men's fashion, while another concentrates on home appliances. In large retail stores, every department or segment may have multiple buyers, each with a more narrow focus. These individual buyers often work together as a team to organise the product mix of the entire department. Typical duties of a retail buyer include:

  • perform inventory planning and allocation to ensure sufficient stock level to fulfil the demand

  • generate reports and perform in-depth analysis on product selection, pricing, market reports, sales and other related data as required

  • create a forecast for promotion

  • assist category manager in product category review and analysis in ensuring sales opportunities and profitability

  • provide help in determining pricing guidelines and maintain sales plus gross profit expectations

  • negotiate price and contract details with suppliers

  • replenish products at competitive prices, while ensuring accurate delivery

  • understand store requirements and work closely with suppliers in sourcing new and seasonal products in a timely manner

  • share best practices and improve knowledge of emerging trends through networks with internal and external stakeholders

  • identify growth opportunities, risks and develop contingency plans

  • build strong vendor relationships

  • assist in creating solid business plans and detailed promotional campaigns

  • evaluate the ongoing performance of product mixes and promotional campaigns and take actions as appropriate

  • oversee inventory costs, gross profit margin and sales forecast to achieve sales and profit targets

  • plan and develop pricing strategies based on competitive analysis, competitor positions, market reviews and company financials

Read more: What Does a Merchandiser Do? (Plus How to Become One)

Average salary for a retail buyer

The salary for a retail buyer varies according to the number of departments and size of operation that's included in their responsibilities. On average, a retail buyer can earn a salary of about $25,702 per month. In addition, they generally receive a full benefits package along with comprehensive medical insurance. Some retail stores also offer shopping discounts to their staff members.

Read more: What Is Fashion Merchandising? (Key Roles and Duties)

Skills required for a retail buyer

To be successful as a retail buyer, you can develop certain job-specific skills, along with soft skills. Here are some of the top hard and soft skills required for a retail buyer:

Product knowledge

Having strong product knowledge implies having good information and knowledge about the products that you focus on. This information is essential for retail buyers to constantly review and revise the product mix according to market trends and customers' interests. While reviewing the store's current product selection, you have information to decide whether it's profitable to sell the product.

It's also important to have knowledge of the latest market trends and competitions in your product category. Being knowledgeable about the latest goods and merchandise in your product category can help you determine if they're well suited for your store location and customer base. When you meet both these criteria, it's easier to sell the products and learn profit.

Customer knowledge

A successful retail buyer understands not only their products but also their customers. They regularly evaluate data analytics, consumption habits and patterns in customer shopping behaviour to make impactful business decisions. This knowledge can also help identify the right products and product mixes to generate a more remarkable customer experience. To understand their target market clearly, retail buyers require the knowledge and expertise to combine various elements, ranging from lifestyle to behavioural insights. It can help them make strategic decisions that are beneficial for both the customers and the company.

Analytical skills

Strong analytical skills are very important to succeed as a retail buyer. It can help you monitor market trends, analyse customer behaviour, study competitions and review industry dynamics to make critical business decisions. For example, having knowledge about the popular products trending in your industry can help you determine the new products to purchase for your retail store. When you offer the right products at the right price, it can help you attract more customers and maximise profits.

Communication skills

Excellent communication skills are essential for a retail buyer. On a daily basis, you may interact with a wide range of people, including vendors, managers, product team members, procurement and operation teams. Having strong verbal and written communication skills can help you function smoothly, ensuring the success of your job and the company.

Negotiation skills

A major part of the retail buyer's job is to act as a liaison between the company suppliers. You may negotiate with suppliers and vendors to purchase goods and get them at the most competitive price without compromising on quality or going over the budget. It can help you gain the best deals for new products and merchandise offered at the retail store.

Adaptability

Being adaptable is an important skill for a retail buyer. The constantly evolving retail landscape requires buyers who can quickly recognise and adapt to the industry changes. More than ever, retail buyers require the skills to respond to changing trends and customer interest and adapt to the latest technologies to meet the growing demand.

Salary figures reflect data listed on Indeed Salaries at time of writing. Salaries may vary depending on the hiring organisation and a candidate's experience, academic background and location.

Explore more articles