Retail Buyer: Job Outlook & Career Information

Mar 18, 2019

Read ahead to learn about the training needed to become a retail buyer and some of their common job duties. Review the salary potential and career outlook for this position, and find out what other related careers you could pursue.

Career Definition for a Retail Buyer

A retail buyer selects and purchases merchandise for retail stores to resell to the public. Retail buyers use computer programs to keep track of existing product inventory. They also use market research and knowledge of trends to anticipate their companies' needs for new products. Most retail buyers negotiate with suppliers, thus their positions often require travel and work weeks of over 40 hours. Additional duties may include evaluating suppliers, interviewing vendors, analyzing proposed prices and negotiating contracts.

Education Bachelor's degree in retail marketing
Job Skills Strong negotiation capability, computer proficiency, ability to anticipate trends, math and data analysis skills
Median Salary (2017)* $62,120 (all buyers and purchasing agents)
Job Outlook (2016-2026)* 3% decline (all buyers and purchasing agents)

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Required Education

Typically, retail buyers require one year of on-the-job training and a high school diploma; however, depending on the size of the store or distributor, a bachelor's degree in a field such as retail marketing may be necessary. Classes in retail marketing include retail operations, marketing strategy and consumer psychology. Many employers also look for retail buyers who have retail experience and are familiar with their company's products.

Additionally, buyers may become certified through a certification agency to earn credentials, such as the Certified Purchasing Professional. This certification requires students to possess three years of purchasing-related experience and pass an exam.

Job Skills

The ability to anticipate the popularity of upcoming products is very important for retail buyers. They should also have strong negotiation, math and computer skills. Experience in data analysis and resource planning is required.

Career and Economic Outlook

On the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) website, retail buyer jobs fall under the broader category of buyers and purchasing agents. The BLS predicted that there will be a 3% decrease in employment for these occupations from 2016-2026. The median annual salary for buyers and purchasing agents was $62,120 in 2017. This figure depends largely on what is being bought and sold. In addition to salary, many retail buyers also receive retirement benefits and health care.

Alternative Career Options

Similar career options within this field include:

Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representative

Whether working as an inside or outside sales representative, these workers reach out to new and existing customers, answer customers' questions and sell items to wholesalers and manufacturers. The required education depends on the product sold, but a high school diploma is generally acceptable for entry-level work. Sales reps in technical and scientific products, as well as those in general sales, could see a 5% growth in jobs from 2016-2026, as reported by the BLS. Wholesale and manufacturing sales representatives, except those working with technical and scientific products, earned a median of $56,970 as of May 2017, per the BLS. The median salary for those in the technical and scientific field was $78,830 in that same year.

Retail Salesperson

Data from the BLS' 2017 reports showed that retail salespersons earned a median income of $23,210 per year. In addition to selling various items, retail salespersons may inventory stock, prepare displays and make financial deposits on behalf of their employer. These workers, based on information from the BLS, were to see a 2% increase in employment between 2016 and 2026.

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