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Retail, sales and customer services careers for graduates: Buying

Clothes neatly laid out in a wardrobe

The role of the retail buyer is to select products for sale according to the demand or forecasted demand of a retailer’s customers and the budget available for spending on goods. Goods are purchased in bulk from importers, manufacturers, growers, wholesalers, fashion houses and so on to sell at a profit. Most buyers specialise in a particular type of product such as fashion or food.

Retail buyers normally work alone or as part of a team of buyers in the central buying department of symbol, multiple or department stores. In smaller groups or single outlets, buying will fall within the remit of the manager or owner.

The success of a retail business depends on the buyer acquiring the right goods, at the right price and ensuring they are delivered to the right place, at the right time. This means they must analyse data to review and anticipate trends, constantly find new and potential sources of stock, and negotiate with suppliers. They discuss contracts, arrange delivery dates so that goods arrive on time and warehouses are not overstocked, and then monitor the profitability of merchandise.

To learn about new products and create relationships with suppliers, buyers attend trade events such as fashion shows, visit warehouses, and meet sales representatives to view samples and catalogues. The buyer may also liaise with designers and manufacturers to make recommendations regarding product development.

Graduates from all disciplines are accepted into the role of buyer, as personal qualities and on-the-job training are as important as any specific qualification in retail; work experience in retail is a huge benefit.

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