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Become a Fashion Buyer: Education and Career Roadmap

Learn about the educational and career requirements for becoming a fashion buyer. Find information about job duties and explore the step-by-step process that can help you start a career in fashion buying. View article »

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  • 0:01 Fashion Buyers
  • 0:51 Career Requirements
  • 1:35 Step 1: Research Job…
  • 2:02 Step 2: Earn a…
  • 3:05 Gain Experience

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Video Transcript

Fashion Buyers

Fashion buyers are professional shoppers and negotiators who use both business sense and fashion savvy to acquire apparel and accessory merchandise assortments for a variety of retail companies. The job entails staying current with fashion trends, sourcing products, developing relationships with product vendors, and managing product orders and sales in line with the employer's margin and profit goals.

Fashion buyers must also be assertive in negotiating costs and then set the retail prices for products while establishing promotional sales strategies and keeping tabs on industry competitors. While most of their time is spent in a comfortable office setting, travel outside the United States might be required, and overtime is common.

Career Requirements

Degree Level Bachelor's degree
Degree Field Fashion merchandising
Experience 2-5 years related merchandising experience
Key Skills Communication, relationship development, negotiation, analytical, financial, organizational, and time management skills; proficiency with Excel, Word, Outlook, and inventory management software
Salary (2015) $52,940 (2015 median salary for retail and wholesale buyers)

Sources: Online job postings in October 2012, The Princeton Review, Payscale.com

Fashion buyers usually need a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising and two to five years related merchandising experience. Buyers should have good analytical, decision-making and negotiating abilities and basic math skills. They should also be proficient in the use of Microsoft Excel and Word and inventory management software. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), buyers and purchasing agents in general can expect a 2%, or slower than average, increase in jobs from 2014-2024. In May 2015, retail and wholesale buyers earned a median annual salary of $52,940.

Step 1: Research Job Requirements

Fashion buyers use their fashion and business expertise to make purchasing decisions that can directly impact their companies' bottom lines. In general, they analyze and forecast trends, locate and place bids on apparel and accessories, and work with retail salespeople to discern buying trends. These tasks require sophisticated market and product knowledge as well as strong analytical abilities.

Find schools that offer these popular programs

  • Merchandising and Buying
  • Merchandising Marketing, Sales, and Distribution
  • Retail Operations Management
  • Sales Operations

Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

Most employers prefer to hire fashion buyers who have completed bachelor's degree programs. Fashion design, merchandising and marketing or business degree programs provide aspiring fashion buyers with job-related education and skills. Required courses can include statistical analysis, trend forecasting, accounting, consumer behavior, marketing and economic theory.

Success Tips:

  • Participate in an internship. In addition to coursework, many colleges offer for-credit fashion or retail industry internships for credit that provide students with real-world experience.
  • Develop product knowledge. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers looking for purchasing managers, buyers and agents with working knowledge about the products they sell in addition to a bachelor's degree. Retail sales experience helps fashion buyers develop an understanding of trend cycles and customer purchasing habits. Reading and researching keeps professionals informed about the latest styles.

Gain Experience

Entry-level positions in this field often include assistant or junior buyer, associate planner, allocation assistant or purchasing clerk, which can help new professionals become familiar with the purchasing process. Once hired, they learn about inventory and sales systems, trend forecasting and price negotiations, as well as how economic trends impact retail sales. Some companies provide new employees with long-term training programs, which can help them advance in their merchandising careers.

Success Tip:

  • Stay current on industry trends. Fashion buyers must continuously educate themselves about the latest product lines and network with other professionals. To be a successful fashion buyer, you need to attend fashion shows and seminars, and read industry publications.

Just to recap, fashion buyers typically need a bachelor's degree in fashion merchandising to obtain a job as an assistant or junior buyer or other related entry-level position. As reported by the BLS, retail and wholesale buyers earned a median salary of $52,940, as of May 2015.

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