Should I Become an Apparel Buyer?
Apparel buyers are professional shoppers and negotiators who use both business sense and fashion savvy to acquire apparel and accessory merchandise for clothing companies. The job entails staying current with fashion trends, sourcing products and developing relationships with product vendors, as well as managing product orders and sales in line with the employer's margin and profit goals. Apparel buyers also negotiate costs and set the retail prices for products while establishing promotional sales strategies and tracking industry competition.
A career in apparel buying will likely appeal to individuals who have strong business skills and who want to work in the fashion industry. This is a full-time position that often requires overtime hours.
An undergraduate degree in fashion merchandising or a related field is needed. Experience requirements vary, though employers may look for 1-5 years of related professional experience. Skills in communication, relationship development, negotiation, analysis, finance, organization and time management are needed to work in the profession. According to 2015 data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, wholesale and retail buyers earned a median salary of $52,940.
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- Merchandising and Buying
- Merchandising Marketing, Sales, and Distribution
- Retail Operations Management
- Sales Operations
Become a Clothing Company Buyer
Step 1: Research Job Requirements
Apparel buying often requires long hours, extensive travel and difficult negotiations. People in this position must use business and fashion knowledge to make confident purchasing decisions that directly impact their companies' goals. Buyers must analyze and forecast trends, work with retail sales and operations employees to discern buying trends and locate and place bids on apparel and accessories. These tasks require sophisticated product and market knowledge, as well as strong analytical abilities.
Step 2: Earn a Bachelor's Degree
Many employers seek apparel buyers who have completed a bachelor's degree program. Fashion design, marketing, merchandising and business degree programs can provide aspiring apparel buyers with skills and job-related knowledge. Required courses typically include consumer behavior, marketing, statistical analysis, trend forecasting, accounting and economic theory.
In addition to coursework, many schools offer internships in the fashion or retail industries for credit for students pursuing a college degree. These programs can also provide college students with real-world experience and skills in their field that can be used after graduation.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, employers look for purchasing managers, buyers and agents with working knowledge about the products they sell in addition to a bachelor's degree. Retail sales experience can help develop product knowledge and give apparel buyers an understanding of trend cycles and customer buying habits. Reading about and researching industry topics can also help professionals stay on top of fashion trends.
Step 3: Gain Experience
Entry-level positions in this field often include purchasing clerk, allocation assistant, junior buyer, associate planner and assistant buyer. These jobs provide aspiring apparel buyers with experience in the buying process and opportunities to learn about trend forecasting, inventory and sales systems and price negotiations. They can also learn about the ways economic trends impact retail sales. Some companies offer long-term training programs for new employees with goals to advance in the merchandising field, eventually to the position of buyer or senior buyer.
Apparel buyers must continuously educate themselves about the latest trends and product lines to be successful in their field. Attending seminars and fashion shows and reading industry publications can provide networking and learning opportunities.
To summarize, apparel buyers typically need a bachelor's degree in fashion design, merchandising, business, marketing or a related field, and experienced candidates are often preferred by employers.