Merchandising and Purchasing

Purchasing and merchandising professionals research buying options, negotiate deals and analyze consumer pricing. Learn about career duties, employment outlook, median salary info and related education options.

Is Merchandising and Purchasing for Me?

Career Summary

Professionals in merchandising and purchasing attempt to get the best goods at the lowest costs for their employer. These professionals might have job titles such as purchasing agents, wholesale buyers, retail merchandisers and purchasing managers. Purchasing workers evaluate potential suppliers and gather information to determine which company can provide the fastest and most accurate service at a reasonable price. Merchandising professionals may also be the manager of the department they buy for and sometimes are responsible for setting prices of the products sold to consumers.

Skills and Responsibilities

Skills in communication and negotiation are useful for purchasing professionals. You should also be comfortable making decisions to work in purchasing and merchandising. Many purchasing professionals work more than 40 hours each week. You may have to travel often in order to meet with potential suppliers or resolve issues. If you work in the retail sector, you might have to work extra or irregular hours during busy times of the year such as the holiday season.

Salaries and Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the overall employment of purchasing professionals was expected to increase by four percent from 2012-2022 (www.bls.gov). The employment of purchasing managers and buyers of farm products was projected to increase by 6%, while purchasing agents dealing in everything except wholesale, retail and farm products were expected to see 3% growth during that period. Purchasing managers will experience little to no change in employment. The BLS also reported that wholesale and retail buyers earned a median annual income of $52,370 and purchasing managers earned $103,780 in 2013. Purchasing agents not involved with farm products, retail or wholesale received $59,780.

How Can I Work in Merchandising and Purchasing?

Educational Requirements

Although you may be able to work your way up to become a purchasing or merchandising professional without a postsecondary education, most employers prefer applicants who have a bachelor's degree in a field related to buying and selling. Purchasing managers are often required to have a master's degree. Regardless of your education, you usually have to spend time learning the specifics of the company you work for.

A bachelor's degree in retailing and consumer science can prepare you for work in merchandising, store operations or supply management. A bachelor's degree in purchasing management or merchandising can also prepare you for a career as a purchasing professional. A bachelor's degree program that prepares you for work in merchandising and purchasing may include courses such as merchandise promotion, business statistics, management information systems, economic principles and marketing management.

Graduate Studies

A master's degree program in merchandising usually gives you the opportunity to learn specific skills tailored to the industry you wish to work in, such as product, service and resource management, as well as obtain general business skills needed by all purchasing professionals. In master's degree programs, you may be expected to produce a master's thesis focusing on theories of consumer behavior or international versus domestic marketing.

Certification Options

Professional purchasing certifications are common for entry-level purchasing professionals and can also increase your opportunities for advancement. Designations such as Certified Purchasing Manager (CPM) or Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) are offered by professional organizations, such as the American Purchasing Society. Each certification can show employers expertise in different areas of buying and selling, so it can be a good idea to explore your options before pursuing a professional designation.

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