What it Takes to Become a Retail Buyer
by Kristin Hackler
Years ago, I was the retail buyer for fine cheeses in a small gourmet shop. In this role, I wrote up the descriptions of the cheeses, handed out samples, sold lovely, pungent wedges of fromage all day, and handled the purchasing for the store. Every week I was on the phone with suppliers ranging from mass gourmet distributors down to individual creameries that only produced a single style of farmstead goodness every year.
Being a retail buyer meant I had to be very careful of the cheese budget. I had to order what the customers would buy, and more times than not, that meant holding off on purchasing the soft, short-lived (yet delicious) cheese until I could sell it quickly to a demanding market.
Here’s what you need to know if you’re interested in how to become a buyer. We’ve also included information on how to write a resume that will land you the buyer job you want.
What is a buyer?
A retail buyer is someone who curates the selection of goods in a store to bring in items customers want, at prices their company will make a respectable profit on. In my cheese-selling role, this meant buying the right balance of long-lasting, recognizable hard cheeses along with short-lived, rarer cheeses that reinforced our gourmet reputation. That balance was an always-moving target, but there was also something exciting about the challenge.
Of course, if I missed the mark too much, or too frequently, I risked losing my job. I spent a lot of time crunching numbers and doing my best to follow trends and forecast accurately.
What does a buyer do?
The role of a retail buyer is similar no matter what you’re selling, be it cheese, furniture, toys, makeup or even cars. If you’re the retail buyer for a beach store, for instance, by February you’re betting on which swimsuits will be most popular that year, and how many you can sell by late summer. If it’s furniture, you’re walking the fine line between quality goods, timeless or trendy appearance, and a purchase price that appeals to your audience.
Retail buyers spend a lot of time in the store, but buyer responsibilities also include visiting showrooms, scouting new products, and negotiating prices with suppliers. They may also work with a merchandise buyer, which is a role similar to a retail buyer but with a focus on wholesale inventory.
How to become a buyer
To become a retail buyer, knowledge of the product and a proven ability to accurately forecast trends is critical. While a bachelor’s degree can be beneficial, it’s not entirely necessary. Potential employers are looking at how well you know their industry.
If you spent a lot of time in the grocery business, you might be an ideal candidate for the retail buyer position at a gourmet food shop. If you worked in a clothing store, you could have the eye and forecasting talent to buy for a boutique.
Creating a retail buyer resume
When applying for jobs, it’s essential to note your experience and talent with the following buyer skills on your resume (which you can construct using a resume template):
- Math (particularly for budgeting)
- Trend and seasonal forecasting
- Knowledge of the product market
- Any previous buyer experience
Because many employers use Applicant Tracking Systems (ATS), you must craft a custom resume and cover letter for each position. Read the job description and search for relevant keywords (often related to skills, experience and company culture) and work those into your application. Using a pre-set resume format can help ensure your documents are properly organized.
If retail buying is a long-term aspiration, you may consider starting as an assistant retail buyer. You might also earn a bachelor’s degree in advertising/marketing, merchandising or a general business degree. There are certifications on retail fundamentals, such as one from the National Retail Federation, that will go a long way in retail-specific applications. If you have a degree or certifications, highlight those on your retail buyer resume.
If you love long bets, quick math, negotiating and forecasting, you may enjoy a career as a retail buyer. Our Resume Builder and Cover Letter Templates can help you create top-notch application materials to secure that dream job in retail. Both tools help simplify the writing and formatting process, with pre-written bullet points and professionally designed layouts that are designed to make hiring managers sit up and take notice.