How do I Become a Retail Buyer?

Harriette Halepis

If you are looking to become a retail buyer, there are two ways to break into the business. The first way to become a retail buyer is to obtain a pertinent degree from a recognized university. The second way to become a retail buyer is to gain experience within the retail field. Since many retail manufacturers prefer to hire people who have some type of university eduction, most people who want to become retail buyers gain academic experience prior to applying for a job within the retail field.

Retail buyers have either attended school for it or gained experience in the retail industry first.
Retail buyers have either attended school for it or gained experience in the retail industry first.

There are a couple of different academic disciplines that you can study in order to become a retail buyer. Programs such as marketing, business, retail merchandising, and even finance will prepare you for a career within the retail purchasing world. Once you have obtained a university degree, you can then begin to apply for retail job positions.

Working in retail sales and management provides buying experience.
Working in retail sales and management provides buying experience.

If you have gained a degree in one of the aforementioned disciplines prior to applying for a retail position, then you will not begin your retail profession as a stockroom employee or sales clerk. Instead, people who have university degrees generally begin a career in retail as a corporate office employee. Those people who do not go the university route usually begin work within the retail profession as sales clerks and storeroom employees. Either way, any kind of position within a retail company can help you to become a retail buyer.

Aside from working within the retail industry, it is important to gain retail buying experience. The best way to achieve this type of experience is to work with a professional buyer. This can be done by asking a store's current buyer to show you the ins and outs of retail buying, or it can be accomplished by seeking a specific internship with a retail buyer. Gaining hands-on experience is the best way to find out how to become a buyer.

In addition, you may discover that some larger department stores within your area offer retail buying seminars. Since these stores want to train future buyers, these courses are often invaluable. By attending lectures, gaining buying insight, and keeping abreast with buying trends, you can begin to understand how the retail buying process works. Once you have worked within the retail field, attended informational buying seminars, and worked closely with a retail buyer, you can then apply for a position as a buyer within a retail company.

Retail buyers have an eye for spotting a good deal.
Retail buyers have an eye for spotting a good deal.

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Discussion Comments


Being a buyer is almost a talent more than anything else. Sure, school will teach you how to crunch numbers and deal with vendors but no school is going to be able to teach you how to pick out excellent merchandise. It's instinct and gut feelings. I would get a job as an apprentice before I spent money on a degree.


@GreenWeaver - Wow, what an accomplishment. I know that having a fashion buyer job is not easy. I think to be successful in this field you really have to have a good combination of creativity and fashion sense to select what will sell. Of course, you have to have excellent forecasting skills and can spot a winning trend anywhere as well.


@Sneakers41 - I wanted to add that my sister had a fashion buyer job for many years and she also started her career in the stores. She received a two year degree from a fashion school in New York City that offered her internships as part of her curriculum.

Due to the experience that she received from her internships she was able to land a job as a department manager within a large department store chain in Florida. Because her department was so successful selling merchandise, she was promoted to assistant buyer and eventually she became a buyer.

This company liked her so much that she was promoted again to Divisional Merchandise Manager which was a management position that managed all of the buyers within her division. This was incredible because my sister was only 26 at the time and was the youngest Divisional Merchandise Manager the company ever had.


How important is previous experience in management as far as becoming a retail buyer goes? I am very interested in the field, but the only experience I have in retail is as a shopper. Do you have any tips?

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