Retail buyers are responsible for sourcing and purchasing the stock for a retail establishment. A bachelor's degree is the common entry-level education requirement, and on-the-job training is common.
A retail buyer is responsible for finding and purchasing items wholesale to be resold at a retail establishment. Junior retail buyer positions require, at minimum, a bachelor's degree in business and training from their employers. However, a master's degree in business qualifies job applicants for upper-level purchasing and management positions.
|Required Education||Bachelor's degree|
|Other Requirements||Master's degree for advanced positions|
|Projected Job Growth||6% from 2014-2024 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
Education Requirements for Retail Buyers
A retail buyer must plan and make decisions regarding consumer demand, stock levels, potential sales, store budgets and product availability. Buyers are needed in many industries. Those working in the fashion industry usually make one purchase that is expected to last an entire year. A business degree equips aspiring retail buyers with the skills needed to understand a changing business environment that affects purchasing and resale.
Bachelor of Science in Business Administration (BSBA)
A Bachelor of Science in Business Administration program familiarizes students with core business areas like marketing, management, finance and entrepreneurship. A BSBA degree program may also feature a group of concentration areas. Marketing, accounting, real estate, organizational management and computer information systems are some of the specialty areas offered in bachelor's degree programs in business. A major in retail marketing or retail management is appropriate for students entering into the retail purchasing profession.
Core business courses emphasize areas such as ethics, communication, problem-solving and decision-making skills and collaboration. An internship is usually required in the final year. Students interested in retail purchasing careers are encouraged to work with either a department store or a wholesale manufacturer.
Master of Business Administration (MBA)
A master's degree in business administration is widely considered to be necessary for applying to upper-level management positions. An MBA program almost always allows a student to choose an emphasis area. Some common emphasis areas include entrepreneurship, management, marketing, international business and finance.
However, before a student can begin work on his or her emphasis area, a series of business foundation courses must be completed. These classes stress the importance of working within a team, leadership skills, cost analysis and financial performance, problem-solving skills and business strategy. Students with little work experience are encouraged to complete an internship, while students who are employed often choose to complete a capstone project in their area of interest.
Academic preparation only provides newly hired retail buyers with a broad overview of the business field. It does not detail the specifics of a particular business operation. This is why all retail buyers who have been recently hired must undergo a period of on-the-job training that details the specific aspects of a retail establishment.
The training period for a new retail buyer can last from six months to two years, but length ultimately depends upon how well a trainee picks up and processes new information. The goal of the training period is to familiarize new retail buyers with the suppliers and markets from which they make purchases. In addition, they also receive information about budgetary constraints and pricing. Inventory control is important to retail buyers. Most merchandise should be located on the floor where it can be seen and purchased. Merchandise that is kept in inventory for long periods of time represents money that has been spent but not yet sold for profit.
Retail buyer trainees learn how to meet consumer demand while not overstocking and keeping a high inventory. Training is also provided on computer software programs that are used to track sales, inventory and purchases. Once trainees have demonstrated knowledge of the major duties of a retail buyer, they may be allowed to make purchases on their own. A trainee with an advanced degree may receive instruction on areas outside of purchasing, such as marketing and merchandising. In some cases a retail buyer works with the marketing department of a retail store to move final pieces of merchandise. Research is also key to the position, and a retail buyer must keep abreast of new products or clothes that shoppers want.
While some retail buying positions may be available for people with just a high school diploma, most jobs require a relevant bachelor's degree. After securing a position, on-the-job training is likely to continue through at least the first year of employment. Retail buyers interested in career advancement may consider master's programs in business administration.