Retail Buyer Career Information, Job Description and Duties

Learn about the education and preparation needed to become a retail buyer. Get a quick view of the requirements as well as details about degree programs, job duties and the job growth outlook to find out if this is the career for you.

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Retail buyers are an important part of the retail industry and are responsible for determining which merchandise a company will purchase. A bachelor's degree is often required, and some retail buyers obtain certification.

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  • Merchandising and Buying
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Essential Information

Retail buyers purchase goods for re-sale to the public. A retail buyer takes current inventory, sales trends, supply chain and customer needs into account when deciding what to buy from suppliers and sell through their company. They may be responsible for overseeing the company's receiving department and keeping tabs on inventory, expenditures and deliveries. Some overseas travel may be involved, and the job often calls for working more than 40 hours in a week.

Most companies require that retail buyers have at least a bachelor's degree, and graduate degrees are becoming more common. Many retail buyers pursue certification through professional organizations.

Required Education Bachelor's degree in business, economics or other relevant field
Projected Job Growth (for wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products) 6% from 2014-24*
Median Salary (for wholesale and retail buyers, except farm products) $52,940 (2015)*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Retail Buyer Career Information

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that employers look for retail buyers who have earned degrees in economics and business (www.bls.gov). Advancement opportunities will be best for those who continue their education beyond a bachelor's degree. According to the BLS, postgraduate credentials are increasingly common. Additionally, several organizations offer certification, such as the Certified Purchasing Manager credential offered by the Institute for Supply Management.

The BLS says that retail buyers frequently work more than a standard 40-hour workweek, and those working for large companies spend time traveling, sometimes outside of the country. Busy times, like the back-to-school and holiday seasons, factor into a retail buyer's schedule. While the purchasing industry as a whole will increase by two percent through 2024, according to the BLS, retail buyers will see a six percent growth through that period.

Job Description

Retail buyers work for large and small stores selecting specific products to purchase from wholesalers and manufacturers for re-sale to their customers. Retail buyers are sometimes referred to as merchandise managers, and they play a large role in the distribution of goods to the public, according to the BLS. As part of their job, a retail buyer sometimes oversees a company's shipping and receiving departments. Decision making, planning and leadership are key aspects of a retail buyer's job.

Job Duties

According to the BLS, retail buyers must stay abreast of current and future trends and use the Internet for purchasing and research. Negotiating and forming relationships with wholesalers and manufacturers is an important aspect of a retail buyer's job. They also monitor sales and inventory within the store and must ensure the quality and value of the products their company sells. Some retail buyers spend extensive time traveling, especially those working for international corporations.

Retail buyers analyze trends to determine which merchandise companies will purchase for re-sale. The job often requires travel and long hours. A bachelor's degree is often required and while not mandatory, some retail buyers obtain certification.

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