Wholesale and Retail Buyer  What They Do

Just the Facts

Wholesale and Retail Buyers Career Video

Insider Info

dotIt's up to the fashion buyer to know, both intuitively and through research, what looks are going to be in fashion in the coming season. That's because they're the ones who decide what clothing shows up in the shops of the nation.

dotFashion buyers purchase women's, men's and children's clothing for both retail and wholesale stores. They're responsible for buying all kinds of items, including lingerie, shoes, scarves, belts and jewelry. Some purchase goods for a particular department and are given a specific budget to work with.

dotIn smaller stores, fashion buyers are responsible for buying the entire inventory. Chain stores often have buyers in the firm's head office who select products to be used in all of the firm's stores.

dotWhen purchasers come up with a buying plan, they think about the customer's needs, fashion trends, potential suppliers and prices. A buyer must make sure that the department or store will make a profit from their purchases. "Money is always a concern," says Terry Hughes, a fashion buyer in Georgia. "It's not like a shopping spree because you're ordering out of your business's pocket. If they don't sell, you don't have a business."

dotIn order to know what to purchase, a fashion buyer analyzes market reports, talks to consultants, goes to fashion shows and keeps in touch with customers.

dotTo purchase clothing, buyers attend trade shows and meet sales representatives. "We go twice a year to trade shows where manufacturers set up and we can look at all the lines that will be out the following year," says fashion buyer Erin Meagher.

dotWhen making a purchase, buyers base their decisions on price, availability, reliability and selection. "We go to trade shows, take notes, photographs and then go home and work with our buying plan before we make any decisions," says Meagher.

dotIn addition to purchasing clothes, a buyer is usually in charge of the new clothing displays, deciding on the decor, signs, lighting, shelving and fixtures that will be needed for a display. They also work closely with salespeople and managers to make sure they understand new fashion trends.

dotFashion buyers who work for larger stores spend much of their time tracking inventory and shifting stock between stores. "I have to monitor the sales in each of the stores because something that is hot in one store may not be selling in another," says Meagher.

dotFashion buyers work for retail chains, department stores, independently owned stores and for wholesale distributors.

dotMost buyers work 35- to 40-hour weeks, Monday through Friday. However, the job requires weekend and evening work to travel to shows or attend meetings. Overtime is also required when buyers prepare new budgets and make purchasing decisions. The holiday season is especially hectic.

dotDuring their busy workdays, buyers will meet with vendors, sales representatives, store executives and customers. "We deal directly with at least 25 suppliers," says buyer Asif Husain.

dotA flair for color and design is very important in this field. In addition to being creative, buyers must be analytical, well organized and good at basic arithmetic.

dotWhile strength isn't needed in this profession, physically challenged people may encounter some difficulties, depending on the amount of travel required. Buyers often visit trade shows, factories, fashion shows and manufacturers' offices.

dotThis is a job that often requires experience in retail. Generally, people work as sales clerks or as assistants before they become fashion buyers. "Anybody thinking of this should have retail experience," says Hughes.

dotFashion buyers agree that you should get retail experience in the area where you would eventually like to become a fashion buyer. "You need to be able to see what's selling, and watch to see what buyers are bringing in," says Husain.

dotOf course, you have to love clothing to enjoy this job. Successful buyers have good taste in clothing and know their customers.

dotThey are also well organized and decisive. "You have to go for the bare minimum if you're not sure about something, but you also don't want to be sold out right away. It takes good decision making," says Hughes.

dotBuyers enjoy meeting with many different people and are comfortable negotiating with suppliers, dealing with staff and solving in-store problems. Buyers can often become managers or supervisors within the retail and wholesale industry.

Just the Facts

Want a quick overview of what this career is about?Check out Just the Facts for simple lists of characteristics.

At a Glance

Select and order the clothing that gets sold in retail shops

  • Travel is sometimes required
  • You have to be comfortable negotiating with suppliers
  • Retail experience and a post-secondary education are required