How to Become a Retail Buyer

How to Become a Retail Buyer: Career Path Guide

Becoming a retail buyer typically requires an undergraduate degree in a related field, although entry is also possible by gaining an entry-level job with a retail organization and working your way up.


If you want to become a retail 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 retail buyer:


• You have a good understanding of retail math

• 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 enjoy the idea of work based out of an office but involves travel

• You are interested in the challenge of choosing merchandise that will meet customer needs while also maximizing profits


Below we've outlined what you'll need to begin a career as a retail 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 Retail Buyer

Most employers prefer to hire retail buyers who have post-secondary education in a field related to retail buying, such as Retail Operations/Management, Business Administration, Supply Chain Management or Economics.


This is particularly true for retail buying jobs that involve cost analysis, dealing with legal issues and contract administration.


Success Tip: While it is possible to become a retail buyer by working your way up within a retail organization, you typically need an undergraduate degree if you want to go straight into a position as a retail buyer.




Retail Buyer Job Description

Retail buyers are responsible for selecting and purchasing merchandise for resale by retail and wholesale outlets. They are also generally responsible for overseeing the merchandising operations of these stores. Most retail buyers specialize in one product type, such as:


• Fashion (ladies wear, menswear, shoes, accessories, etc.)

• Sporting goods

• Home and office décor

• Furniture

• Home improvement products

• Recreation and hobbies

• Groceries and food products

• Electronics and home entertainment

• Books and magazines



Retail Buyer Job Duties

• Study and become familiar with market reports, sales promotion materials and trade periodicals

• Visit trade shows, showrooms, factories and design events

• Source merchandise and negotiate with suppliers

• Purchase merchandise for resale purposes by retail or wholesale establishments

• Review requirements of the store to determine quantity and quality of merchandise to purchase

• Oversee distribution of merchandise to outlets and ensure appropriate levels of stock are maintained

• Select merchandise that is best suited towards the retail or wholesale outlet



Who Creates Jobs for Retail Buyers?

Jobs for retail buyers typically exist on a full-time basis, although they may be employed contractually. Retail buyers may be hired by any store or chain that resells goods, materials, equipment, or other merchandise, such as:


• Department stores

• Supermarkets

• Warehouse retailers

• Specialty retailers

• E-commerce retailers

• Convenience retailers

• Discount retailers




Experience Needed to Become a Retail Buyer

You don’t necessarily need a formal post-secondary education to become a retail buyer; you can start at the bottom and work you way up. Many retail buyers have begun their careers by working as a sales associate in a retail location, and progressing into positions more directly related to retail buyer.


For example, you could begin by working as a sales associate, and then moving into a position as an assistant buyer, then onto junior or trainee buyer, and finally onto buyer.


Success Tip: If you don’t have formal education related to retail buying and you plan on working your way into the career, make sure you get a job with a company that offers room for growth and has an interest in training and developing employees internally. 



How to Get Retail Buyer Career Experience as a Student 

Arranging an internship opportunity with a retailer while you’re still a student is a great way to get a head start on your career, as this will help you gain valuable industry experience and make important contacts. Speak with your instructors and your school’s career services office, as they may be able to help you identify and apply for such opportunities.


You can also try registering for retail buying training sessions offered by many major retailers. Companies like JC Penney and Walmart, for instance, offer training such sessions. Once you have completed your training, you may be able to apply with the retailer directly for a position as a retail buyer with the retailer who offered the training or one of their competitors.



Skills Needed to Become a Retail Buyer

In order to become effective in a career as a retail buyer, and perform your job duties with competence, you need to posses a certain set of skills, including:


• A good understanding of retail math

• Able to gain a clear understanding of your organization’s customers

• Able to accurately determine the likely demand for products

• Able to forecast market trends, as well as react to market trends

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

• Able to build good working relationships with suppliers

• Proficient in the use of common word processing, spreadsheet and database programs

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

• Ability to negotiate for the best prices



Characteristics of Successful Retail Buyers

In order to enjoy performing the duties of a retail buyer, you need to have certain personality traits. Taking enjoyment from your job duties is important, as it helps you maintain a positive attitude towards your work, which can lead to having a long and successful career.


• An interest in the type of products you will be sourcing and purchasing

• Self-motivated, enthusiastic, decisive and dedicated

• Able to take harsh criticism from managers and colleagues

• An interest in work that allows you to make decisions 

• The ability to work 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



Retail Buyer Career: Work Environment

Working Hours: Most jobs for retail buyers tend to be full-time. They typically work standard weekday working hours, although they must occasionally work long hours, weekends, and overtime during high-demand seasons.


Work Setting: Retail buyers often spend a good amount of their time working in an office environment, as they are typically based out of an office. In addition to spending time in the office, they may travel frequently (domestically and abroad) in order to meet and negotiate with suppliers, attend trade fairs, and visit retail locations.



Career Advancement for Retail Buyers

Experienced retail buyers that demonstrate aptitude and initiative have a multitude of career advancement possibilities open to them.


Retail buyers that work for larger companies may be promoted to positions such as senior buyer, buying controller or head of buying. In some cases however, it may be necessary for retail buyers to move companies or relocate in order to progress in their careers.


Because of the varied skill set retail buyers develop they may also move into other areas within their organization or a competitive organization, such as management, marketing or merchandising. 



Get Your Degree!

Find schools and get information on the program that’s right for you.

Powered by Campus Explorer

Retail Buyer Salary

The salary level of retail buyers can vary depending on a variety of factors, including:


• Their level of education

• Their level of experience

• Their level of responsibility

• The size and type of their employer

• The region in which they work


Retail 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.


Retail 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.


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



Careers Similar to Retail Buyer

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


Fashion Buyer

Fashion Merchandiser

Procurement Manager

Retail Manager

Sales Representative



References: Retail Buyer Career Information

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


Occupations in Alberta:Retail and Wholesale Buyer.” (March 28, 2013). ALIS website - Alberta Learning Information Service. Retrieved January 12, 2020.

Business & Financial:Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents.” (November 5, 2019). Bureau of Labor Statistics - United States Government website. Retrieved January 12, 2020.

Explore Careers:Retail Buyer.” (n.d.). National Careers Service website. Retrieved January 12, 2020.



Scholarships for Becoming a Retail Buyer

Scholarships in Canada and the United States listed for majors that apply to becoming a Retail Buyer can be found on our All Scholarships by Major page.


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 Retail Buyer: Applicable Majors

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


Top Banner Image: