How to Become a Retail Buyer in 5 Steps

Learn about the career path of a retail buyer who selects and purchases new merchandise for retail stores. Find out about the education and training required to work in this field. Schools offering Fashion Design & Merchandising degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What is a Retail Buyer?

Retail buyers play a very key role in the world of department stores and corporate offices. They are in charge of maintaining and updating product inventory so that consumers are kept satisfied. Buyers must travel to different showrooms and manufacturers to consider new products for purchase. They must decide whether products are right for their company or organization and then negotiate deals with the manufacturers.

The table below provides some additional details about this career:

Degree Required High school diploma; bachelor's degree helpful
Education Field of Study Retail buying, merchandising, marketing, advertising, business
Key Responsibilities Negotiate deals, monitor budgets, seek out new products
Job Growth (2014-2024) 2% (for buyers and purchasing agents)*
Median Salary (2015) $59,620 (for buyers and purchasing agents)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Step 1: Research Retail Buyer Career Duties and Education

Retail buyers purchase goods for retail stores, department chains or corporate offices to sell to consumers. A retail buyer shops, trains sales staff, visits showrooms, carefully inspects products, monitors budgets and travels extensively. A successful retail buyer excels in math, has excellent communications skills, understands the business and is a skilled negotiator. These professionals are employed by most retail sectors and may purchase items such as designer scarves, computers, high definition televisions and chrome bathroom fixtures.

Step 2: Earn a High School Diploma

While some companies prefer a bachelor's degree in a field related to retail buying, most require a minimum of a high school diploma. Some high schools offer courses in merchandising, marketing, advertising and business, which can help students prepare for their future career.

Step 3: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Although aspiring retail buyers may be able find entry-level work with only a high school diploma, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) notes that retail buyers with a bachelor's degree will have more opportunities. A bachelor's degree in business with a concentration in retailing or a bachelor's degree in retail merchandising and management can help you learn about retail concepts and retail buying. Many of these programs require an internship, which can give you first-hand experience in the field.

Step 4: Find a Job and Gain Experience

You can prepare for your career by working as a retail salesperson while in high school or college. The availability of jobs for retail buyers is often dependent upon the health of the retail industry. The BLS projects that jobs for wholesale and retail buyers of non-farm products will increase by 6% from 2014-2024, which is slower than average growth for that period. Once you find a job as an entry-level retail buyer, you will likely receive on-the-job training. According to the BLS, this training period can last more than a year.

Step 5: Become Certified

Staying abreast of trends and market conditions and taking continuing education classes gives retail buyers a competitive edge and helps them further their careers. You can also keep current by becoming a member of a trade organization, such as the National Retail Federation or the American Purchasing Society. These organizations also offer continuing education and professional certification opportunities.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Individuals who are considering a career as a retail buyer may also want to consider some similar careers. They could also become purchasing managers, a very similar position with more managerial aspects. If they are particularly gifted with math, jobs in bookkeeping and auditing are also potential options. If individuals are more interested in selling products than buying them, they could also become sales agents or managers.

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