Retail Buyer: Career and Salary Facts

Explore the career requirements for retail buyers. Get the facts about the job duties, career growth outlook and salary expectations to determine whether this is the right career for you. Schools offering Fashion Design & Merchandising degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Retail Buyer?

Retail buyers decide which items will be sold in a store or online, such as clothing or electronics. This job might include travel, working with manufacturers and working with individual stores. These professionals must interview and evaluate various vendors/suppliers and their products for quality, price and other important factors. Retail buyers must be able to sort through and analyze large quantities of information on products and financial reports to make purchasing decisions that are in the best interest of their organization. They negotiate and manage contracts for their company with multiple suppliers, and must address and correct any issues with defective products or unacceptable services. Retail buyers also keep detailed records of the products bought, sold, kept in inventory and more. See the table below for more information on key job duties, salary expectations and more.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree
Education Field of Study Business
Economics
Engineering
Applied sciences
Key Responsibilities Select items to sell in stores, catalogs or online; analyze data to predict what consumers will buy and how many; evaluate suppliers for quality and reliability; negotiate contracts; travel to fashion shows or trade shows to assess potential merchandise
Job Growth (2014-2024) 6%*(for wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products)*
Median Salary (2015) $52,940* (for wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products)*

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

What Are the Job Duties of a Retail Buyer?

A retail buyer selects and purchases goods for an establishment to resell; for example, a buyer might choose the clothing, electronics or footwear that a company sells in stores or online. This job involves much more than just shopping or having good taste, requiring you to forecast consumer buying patterns, track inventories and evaluate suppliers. If you select the wrong products or purchase too much or too little inventory, your company could suffer profit losses or damage to its reputation.

Retail buyers at small stores are sometimes responsible for purchasing the entire inventory, but as a retail buyer for a larger company, you might specialize in just one or two types of merchandise. For example, a large sporting goods store may have a separate buyer or buyers for each department or line of merchandise; in this case, you might purchase nothing but fishing tackle or a particular type of footwear.

As a retail buyer, you'll likely work in an office setting, although travel is often necessary to meet with suppliers and attend retail fairs or fashion shows. You may be required to work more than the standard 40 hours per week, including some night and weekend hours, especially during rush periods like back-to-school and holiday seasons.

Do I Need a Degree?

Although training requirements vary significantly for this field, many retail buyer jobs require a college degree. You'll likely enjoy the best job opportunities with a bachelor's degree in business, economics, engineering or an applied science field, especially if you want to work for a large company. A major in marketing or fashion merchandising may also be applicable. Although they're not necessarily as common, majors in retail merchandise and management are also available with concentrations in buying and product management at some schools.

A graduate degree isn't typically necessary for this field, but you may need a master's degree to advance into a purchasing or supply manager position or another top-level purchasing position. Certification or continuing education may also be necessary to advance in this field. You may need to start out as an assistant buyer, junior buyer, purchasing clerk or other trainee and work your way up into a buying position, even with a college degree.

In order to get hired as a retail buyer, you also typically need knowledge of retailing and wholesaling processes, as well as the prospective employer's merchandise categories. A variety of other skills are deemed useful in this field, including good communication and math skills, the ability to negotiate and analyze financial data, and knowledge of computer software programs and supply-chain management.

How Much Might I Earn?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), job opportunities for wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products, are expected to grow by 6 percent from 2014 to 2024 (www.bls.gov). As a retail buyer, you might expect to earn a salary of about $52,940, which was the median wage reported by the BLS for wholesale and retail buyers, excluding farm products buyers, as of May 2015.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

Some related jobs include financial managers, purchasing managers and logisticians, all of which require at least a bachelor's degree. Financial managers oversee the finances and coordinate the financial transactions of an organization. They examine finance reports, decide what investments to make and help make the organization as profitable as possible. Purchasing managers supervise buyers and purchasing agents for an organization. They help decide what products need to be procured, as well as coordinate the buying efforts of various purchasing agents. Logisticians study the details of supply chains. They typically work for an organization and examine how efficient a product's life cycle is by following the product from the supplier to the customer.

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