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How to Become a Fashion Retail Buyer: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a fashion retail buyer. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in retail buying.

Should I Become a Fashion Retail Buyer?

Fashion retail buyers decide which products stores should sell. By researching market trends and monitoring fashion forecasts, retail buyers stay ahead of the curve while appealing to their target customers. They are responsible for composing product development plans and maintaining strong relationships with vendors. Fashion retail buyers may also assist with a store's visual merchandising and product performance analysis. Although these workers spend their days in comfortable indoor settings, travel is often required. Many buyers typically work overtime.

Career Requirements

Degree Level High school diploma; large companies may prefer a bachelor's degree
Degree Field No specific degree required; fashion merchandising or business degree helpful
Certifications Voluntary certification available
Training On-the-job training for more than 1 year typically offered in lieu of experience
Key Skills Analytical, decision-making, math and negotiating skills, ability to use procurement and point of sale software
Salary $71,070 per year (2014 average salary for all wholesale and retail buyers in the apparel industry)

Sources: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, O*NET OnLine, Online Job Posting (July 2015)

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Although educational requirements vary, large companies typically prefer to hire fashion retail buyers with a bachelor's degree. Having a degree may also be required for career advancement. A degree in fashion merchandising may be ideal for this career or at least a degree program that includes coursework in business and accounting. Strong math and communication skills are essential, since buyers are required to work with budgets and communicate with external vendors.

Success Tip:

  • Learn to use purchasing software. Fashion retail buyers must document fashion trends and purchases, so a keen understanding of computer programs related to procurement or supply chain can be beneficial.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Because fashion retail buyers are expected to have extensive knowledge of the fashion industry, it's important that they gain experience. By working in the field, fashion retail buyers can build their understanding of sales and product marketing. They also can learn about consumer tendencies.

Success Tips:

  • Begin as an assistant fashion buyer. Most fashion retail buyers begin as assistant fashion buyers and work their way up. When first starting in the fashion buying industry, employees are usually assigned tasks like checking invoices and monitoring stock.
  • Stay informed. Buyers must stay up-to-date on current fashions and upcoming trends. Reading trade magazines and watching seasonal runway shows are two ways fashion retail buyers may monitor the fashion environment.

Step 3: Become Certified

Becoming certified can signify a certain level of experience and knowledge. The American Purchasing Society (APS) offers both the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and Certified Purchasing Professional Manager (CPPM) credential. To earn the CPPM credential, fashion buyers must have managerial experience and hold or be applying for the CPP credential. The APS also offers two specialized credentials: the Certified Green Purchasing Professional (CGPP) and the Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant (CPPC). The CGPP is for retail buyers who are trained in sustainability and the CPPC is for individuals who consult or teach in purchasing.

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