What Does a Retail Buyer Do? (With Duties and Skills)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published 4 July 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A retail buyer is a retail professional who contributes to a store's progression by selecting the merchandise to boost sales. Candidates interested in a fast-paced and continually changing role can find a fulfilling career as a retail buyer. Understanding what retail buyers do can help you understand whether you have the relevant experience and skills to be a successful retail buyer. In this article, we discuss what retail buyers do, describe their primary duties and list the necessary hard and soft skills typically required for this role.

What does a retail buyer do?

To answer the question, 'What does a retail buyer do?', their responsibilities can depend on the type of retail environment they professionals work in. For example, a buying professional working in an independent clothing store may have a more diverse set of duties when buying merchandise than that of a buyer working in a larger chain retail store. Additionally, independent retail buyers may have more creative control over the buying process, including how much they spend on new materials and the types of suppliers they engage with. Here are some general retail buyer duties:

Finding suppliers and manufacturers

A significant part of a retail buyer's responsibilities are sourcing suppliers and manufacturers of goods. Suppliers and manufacturers refer to the companies that sell on materials or create products based on designs. Retail buyers may research the best suppliers and manufacturers based on their budget and business plan, selecting the supplier based on a set of criteria such as affordability, ethics and working standards and logistics.

If a retail buyer works in a larger chain of stores, they may not have as much control over the type of supplier and manufacturer they use due to the existing relationship between the brand and supplier. Alternatively, independent retail buyers may be tasked with building relationships with potential suppliers and manufacturers, giving them more executive decisions over the companies they partner with.

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Pitching new ideas

Retail buyers are responsible for innovating ways to encourage customers to buy their products. To do this, these professionals may frequently pitch new ideas to marketing and sales teams in an attempt to increase profits. Pitching new ideas can refer to presenting these teams with information about new fashion or DIY (do it yourself) trends that are likely to lead to an increase in demand for a certain product.

These professionals may also pitch new business management ideas, such as new suppliers or merchandisers that are more sustainable, affordable or have better working standards. Ultimately, it's the retail buyer's responsibility to convince the relevant retail departments that their idea is beneficial for business development.

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Monitoring all stock levels

To understand which items are in the most demand and make buying decisions based on customer demand, retail buying candidates are typically required to continually monitor stock levels. This helps professionals understand which items to discontinue and which items require more frequent delivery. Stock levels are also a good indication of the overall success of the business, allowing retail buyers to better communicate with sales and business management departments on the growth of the business.

For example, if retail buyers notice that they're running out of stock a lot faster, then this may be a good indication that customers enjoy their products or they're going to see an increase in demand in the future. This allows them to plan accordingly and ensure they can continue to meet their customer's demands.

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Attending fashion trade shows

To understand the latest trends or network with other retail buyers, these professionals may frequently attend fashion shows. This provides retail buyers with inspiration for their own merchandise, allowing them to better communicate their requirements to suppliers. Attending fashion and trade shows also allow retail buyers to update marketing and sales departments on industry developments.

This allows them to plan ahead on what merchandise is likely to be in demand in the coming months. This is also an excellent opportunity for retail buyers to connect with suppliers and designers that may be able to help them with procuring their goods in the future.

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Producing reports

Retail buyers may be required to send regular reports to sales teams that summarise their sales successes and which items experience the least customer demand. This allows sales and business management teams to make adjustments to their buying and merchandise strategies to increase company profits.

These reports are critical to understanding the sales forecast and identifying early trends. From these reports, professionals can understand what parts of their buying strategy are reaping more financial gain, allowing them to focus on this and continue to profit from these strategies.

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Monitoring sales performance

These professionals may work collaboratively with their sales teams and monitor current sales performance to help better inform their sales strategies. For example, if sales trajectories indicate that the company is losing more money than it is making, then buyers and sales professionals may form specific strategies such as buying into more trends and conducting market research in an effort to drive sales.

This requires buyers to pay close attention to their merchandise performance, customer reviews and customer retention. Additionally, monitoring sales performance requires buyers to have comprehensive knowledge of the current retail market, including which competitors may influence their sales performance or economic trends.

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Reviewing merchandise success

Reviewing merchandise success refers to retail buyers assessing whether the goods they receive from suppliers and manufacturers yield any results. This includes ensuring that goods are high quality and are fit for purpose. This requires candidates to fulfil a comprehensive quality assurance process to ensure their products fulfill their customer's needs before they go to sale.

From this, they can review whether the suppliers and merchandisers that they work with are beneficial for business and are a positive investment. Buyers may review merchandise success by taking reviews from customers in-store or by performing after-sale surveys to assess their customer's opinions on products.

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Working with marketing departments

To effectively advertise new products and build engagement around the retail company, retail buyers may work collaboratively with the marketing department. This may include consulting on advertising campaigns and ensuring that marketing departments effectively communicate the desired message with the consumer.

This includes consulting on the design of fliers, posters, billboards, TV advertisements, ensuring that agencies reference the correct trends and build enough engagement to boost sales.

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What is a retail buyer?

A retail buyer is typically a professional responsible for procuring merchandise, materials and goods for a retail store. For example, a retail buyer working in a fashion store is generally responsible for finding and securing new clothes from suppliers. These professionals are responsible for ensuring that their products remain competitive and in demand for their customers. This helps stores fulfil their profit targets.

These professionals may regularly review the types of products that are most popular with their customers and adapt their buying strategy accordingly. To be a successful retail buyer, professionals require a comprehensive understanding of their customer base, knowing which products they're likely to buy and which products they're disinterested in. This can require intensive market research, knowledge of current trends and good salesmanship.

Related: What Is a Clothing Buyer? (With Job Responsibilities)

Retail buyer skills

Retail buyers typically require a good balance of hard and soft skills to qualify for a role. Hard skills refer to role-specific skills, whereas soft skills are transferable across multiple industries. Here's a guide to retail buyer skills:

  • Interpersonal skills: These professionals work collaboratively with sales, business management and marketing professionals. This requires candidates to have strong interpersonal skills that allow them to build positive professional relationships.

  • Customer service: Retail buyers may frequently interact with customers to determine their wants and needs. This requires confident customer service skills to place their customers at ease and build better relationships with their consumers.

  • Negotiation skills: When interacting with suppliers and manufacturers, retail buyers require strong negotiation skills. This allows them to negotiate better prices for goods and lower their outgoings.

  • Attention to detail: To effectively monitor stock levels and write detailed reports, candidates require strong attention to detail skills.

  • Commercial awareness: Commercial awareness skills help candidates assess their competitors and understand which trends are likely to be in demand for their customers.

  • Networking skills: To connect with suppliers and manufacturers and build relationships with other professionals across the retail and fashion industry, candidates require strong networking skills.

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