How to Become a Fashion Buyer


Career Path Guide

If you want to become a fashion buyer, you first need to determine if this career path is a good fit for your skills, interests and personality traits. If the following description sounds like you, then you’re probably well suited for it:


• You are well versed in the history of fashion

• You have a keen eye and killer instincts for trends

• You are self-motivated, enthusiastic and dedicated

• You enjoy meeting new people and negotiating

• You are interested in a career path that allows you to be both creative and analytical

• You have an education related to fashion merchandising or marketing

• You have years of retail experience in different capacities


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a fashion buyer. We've also included helpful occupational information, such as job description, job duties, salary expectations, educational requirements, a list of possible employer types, and much more!



Education Needed to Become a Fashion Buyer

In addition to a natural ability to spot trends, you typically need a university or college education to become a fashion buyer, as many employers require you to have some level of post-secondary education in fashion merchandising, fashion marketing, or business administration in order to be considered for jobs.


Some employers however, will hire you with little post-secondary education, provided you have several years of retail experience in positions with varying sets of responsibility, such as sales associate, assistant manager, merchandise display coordinator, and other positions.


Although some employers hire fashion buyers with little formal education if they have enough experience, it’s good to keep in mind that the higher level of education you attain, the higher your marketability will be.





General Job Description

A fashion buyer is responsible for sourcing and selecting a range of merchandise to sell in retail outlets. They purchase women's, men's and children's clothing and accessories for both retail and wholesale stores. They may be responsible for buying all kinds of items, including lingerie, shoes, scarves, belts and jewelry.


When employed by smaller stores, fashion buyers are typically responsible for buying the entire inventory. When employed by large stores on the other hand, they may work within a large team of buyers that select the products to be used in all the company’s stores, and may only be responsible for a specific department, such as menswear or shoes, or for buying specific brands.


Fashion buyers must review existing merchandise and source new items to ensure their retail outlet or wholesale store remains competitive. In order to do this, they must have a full understanding of their customer’s needs; they must also be able to choose merchandise that will maximize profits.


To source items, fashion buyers attend trade shows and fashion shows, and visit factories and the offices of manufacturers. Once seemingly suitable items have been found, the fashion buyer must consider many factors when making final purchasing decisions, such as customer demand, store policy, budget, reliability, selection and market trends.


Once a fashion buyer has purchased merchandise, their job is not necessarily over. Many employers require their fashion buyers need to be present to execute the flow of product into and out of the store from beginning to end.



Typical Job Duties

• Attend trade shows and fashion shows

• Train and mentor junior staff

• Seek merchandise feedback from customers

• Look at emerging trends, sales history and company strategy when making purchasing decisions

• Prepare and present reports regarding sales forecasts

• Maintain awareness of and react to changes in consumer demand

• Meet with suppliers and negotiate the terms of contracts

• Regularly review performance indicators such as sales and discount levels

• Maintain relationships with existing suppliers and source new suppliers for future merchandise

• May liaise with other departments within the organization to ensure the completion of projects



Skills Needed to Become a Fashion Buyer

To be effective in a career as a fashion buyer, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:


• A good understanding of retail math

• Well versed in the history of fashion (helps in trend forecasting for future buys)

• A keen eye and instincts for trends

• Able to look ahead to future buys while keeping an eye on current business

• Able to build good working relationships with suppliers

• Able to choose merchandise that will meet customer needs while also maximizing profits

• Ability to negotiate for the best prices



Characteristics Needed

In order to enjoy performing the duties involved in this profession, you'll need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your duties as a fashion buyer is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which usually leads to having a long and successful career.


• A keen interest in fashion and the history of fashion

• Self-motivated, enthusiastic, decisive and dedicated

• Able to take harsh criticism from managers and colleagues

• The ability to work within tight budgets and under pressure

• Enjoy meeting different people and negotiating with suppliers

• An interest in work that offers variety, ranging from attending trade shows to writing reports

• An interest in work that allows you to be both creative and analytical

• An interest in experiencing the satisfaction that comes with seeing a product become a bestseller after months of hard work





Gaining Internship Experience

Gaining internship experience while you're a student or new graduate is a great way to earn relevant work experience, and get your foot in the door with a prospective employer.


While you're in school, express your interest in obtaining an internship to your fashion merchandising instructors and career services professionals, as they may be able to help you find one.


Upon graduation, inquire about permanent positions with the organization you had your internship with. If you did not work an internship, or they are not hiring at the time of your inquiry, then try contacting boutiques and department stores to inquire about any open positions.


If you're offered an entry-level position and you have set your sights a little higher, then during the interview be sure to ask what kind of opportunities for growth there are within the organization.



Relevant Work Experience Needed to Become a Fashion Buyer

Whether or not you have an education related to fashion marketing or merchandising (or have pursued an internship for that matter), it is important to gain as much experience in retail as you can.

Retail experience working in different roles with a wide variety of responsibilities allows you to gain critical insights of the inner functions of a retail sales organization. For example, having experience in positions such as sales associate, sales supervisor, store manager and fashion merchandiser allows you to gain an understanding in the following areas of retail:


• The role of a sales associate

• How to lead and motivate a team

• How the flow of merchandise works

• Understanding of the seasonal trends of the business

• Understanding customer habits


Generally speaking, the more experience you can gain in retail, the less formal education you will need to become a fashion buyer, as employers place a high value on such experience. Of course, your best bet is to gain this experience while pursuing a degree in fashion marketing, fashion merchandising, or a closely related field. 



Who Employs Fashion Buyers?

Fashion buyers are typically employed on a full-time or contractual basis by small, medium and large-sized retail and wholesale stores.


In smaller stores, they may be responsible for the sourcing, purchasing and merchandising of the entire inventory, whereas in larger stores, fashion buyers may be responsible for a single department, such as menswear or ladieswear, or they may be responsible for overseeing a specific brand within the store.



Job Opportunities

Our job board below has "fashion buyer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia, when available:




How Much Do Fashion Buyers Earn?

The salary level of fashion buyers cab vary, typically depending on the following factors:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience and aptitude

• The size and type of their employer

• The region in which they work


Salary - Canada: According to the 2017 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Retail and Wholesale Buyers occupational group earn an average salary of $45,891 per year. Unfortunately, no similar statistics were available from reliable sources for other Canadian provinces or territories at the time of writing (July 12, 2019).


Salary - United States: According to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the mean annual salary of American workers in the Wholesale and Retail Buyers, Except Farm Products occupational group is $58,210 per year.



Similar Careers in Our Database

Listed below are careers in our database that are similar in nature to "fashion buyer", as they involve many of the same skills, competencies and responsibilities.


Fashion Designer

Fashion Journalist

Fashion Merchandiser


Retail Buyer



References Cited

Please use the references below to find more information on the various aspects of a career as a fashion buyer.


Occupations in Alberta:Retail and Wholesale Buyer.” (March 28, 2013). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved November 19, 2019.

Business & Financial:Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents.” (September 4, 2019). Occupational Outlook Handbook - United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website. Retrieved November 19, 2019.

Fashion Jobs in Canada:Canada Fashion Jobs - Fashion Buyer.” Sunny Shum (October 14, 2010). Style Nine to Five website. Retrieved November 19, 2019.

Career Profile:Fashion Buyer - What They Do.” (n.d.). College Foundation, Inc. website. Retrieved November 19, 2019.



Scholarships for Becoming a Fashion Buyer

Scholarships listed for majors that apply to becoming a fashion buyer can be found on the following pages:


Clothing, Textiles and Material Culture Scholarships

Fine Arts Scholarships

Human Ecology Scholarships


Success Tip: Be sure to apply for any scholarships that you even barely qualify for, as there are millions of dollars of scholarships that go unused every year due to a lack of applicants!



Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point for getting into this line of work. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


Top Banner Image: