How to Become a Fashion Buyer

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 a career as a fashion buyer:


• 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 information for this career, 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 fashion buyer 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.




Fashion Buyer 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.



Fashion Buyer 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

In order to become 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 to Become a Fashion Buyer

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a fashion buyer, you 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 an Internship as a Fashion Buyer

If you want to become a fashion buyer, gaining an internship while you are a student or new graduate is a great way to gain relevant work experience, and get your foot in the door with a prospective employer.


While you are 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 are 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.



Career 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 if you want to become a fashion designer.

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 Creates Jobs for 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, fashion buyers 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.



Fashion Buyer Jobs

Our job board below has "Fashion Buyer" postings in Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom and Australia.

Fashion Buyer Salary: How Much Do They 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


Fashion Buyer Salary Alberta: According to the 2013 Alberta Wage and Salary Survey, Albertans working in the Retail and Wholesale Buyers occupational group earn an average salary of $52,520 per year.


Fashion Buyer Salary Canada: According to Service Canada, the average salary level of Canadian workers in the Retail and Wholesale Buyers occupational group is $46,643 per year.


Fashion Buyer 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.



Careers Similar to Fashion Buyer

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


Fashion Designer

Fashion Journalist

Fashion Merchandiser


Retail Buyer



References: Fashion Buyer Career Information

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


Alberta Learning and Information Service website:

College Foundation of North Carolina website:

Style Nine to Five website:

United States Bureau of Labor Statistics website:



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!



Becoming a Fashion Buyer: Applicable Majors

Studying one of the university majors listed below is an excellent starting point to becoming a fashion buyer. Click on the links to find out what else you can do with these majors!


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