One of the questions we are presented with time after time is ‘How do I become a Fashion Buyer’. It is an area of immense competition and quality candidates are highly sought. However, it is not something you can walk into. Candidates require a specific skill set, retail experience and an obvious talent and desire to source. We hope to steer prospective candidates in the right direction by compiling this and many more snippets of advice within Fashion Buying. (Our Video is available to view here after you read this informative piece!). We are specialists in this field and on a weekly occurrence, place Fashion Buyers is the best International Retailers. All Retail Buyer jobs can be viewed here.

Buyers are responsible for creating an exciting and timely product assortment that meets and/or exceeds sales and profits for the company. Their role is to execute the company’s strategy while remaining customer focused. They intuitively respond to customers, market trends and develop action plans that drive category specific growth and profitability and are ultimately responsible for the success of their department.

There are two types of Buying. The first type is Selection Buying. This means you select styles and ranges from brands e.g. Nike, Levi’s etc. for your store. You will base what you buy on historical sales information such as what colours, styles etc are right for your customer, trend and also information from the brand itself (they can advise you on what their other customers are buying into for the season. This is how businesses like Brown Thomas and Arnotts for example operate.

The other type of Buying is Development. This is when buyers develop product pretty much from scratch based on past sales performance, trend information and strategy with suppliers/factories who are generally based in the places such as Turkey, Hong Kong, China, Bangladesh and India to name just a few.

The product/samples that are developed are then used in the company’s own/private label ranges e.g. Savida at Dunnes Stores, Atmosphere at Penneys. Sometimes you have a designer from your company with you, sometimes not so you need to be very creative and commercial. You really need to know your sales inside out, be really customer focused (what would they like to buy?) and be a good negotiator in order to get the best cost prices, deliveries, terms that you can. High volume textile retailers such as Penneys, Dunnes Stores and Heatons work like this.

Most retailers use both types of buying to offer their customers choice and value. To do either type though you need to be passionate about product, have a creative yet commercial aptitude, be business minded but most importantly you need to have a good eye and possess the innate ability to identify a ‘winner’.

Buyer’s skill-set

  • Be customer focused and have the ability to identify the appropriate product/trend that will appeal to the customer and ultimately drive sales
  • Have the ability to develop and build desirable and commercial ranges
  • Be able to work in a fast-paced, pressurised environment constantly juggling tasks and being able to prioritise accordingly, for the immediate and long term needs of the business
  • The ability to work and communicate with a broad mix of people from different functions in a business and understand how they contribute to the bigger picture e.g. Marketing, P.R., Quality Assurance, Online etc.
  • Being numerical and having the ability to analyse sales reports, the overall market (your direct competitors) and trends to reach commercially sound decisions which drive the business forward
  • Having a really good eye for detail – this is really important as, for example, even a button, the wrong level of red, fabric type etc can put a customer off and can lose sales
  • Possessing strong leadership skills and have an ability to delegate accordingly
  • Managing suppliers and constantly evaluating them to ensure you are getting the best terms and return for the business from each

As a recruiter, the type of people we put forward for trainee buying roles ideally would have the following key things on their CV-

  • A Fashion buying & merchandising course – there are a lot of these available so shop around. Some are affiliated with the major retailers so it can be a good way to gain an internship and perhaps a job. Do your research and explore which is the best one for you. Try and speak to ex-students if you can and see what they are up to post course
  • Retail experience (even if part time during school or college)
  • Office experience – this can show your IT skills, using internal systems, proficiency using Microsoft Office programs – Excel in particular etc.

As fashion buying is such a competitive area and roles at trainee level don’t come up very frequently, I would recommend that candidates who don’t hold these requirements apply directly to retailers that they would like to work for to try and gain experience that way.

This blog was written by Clare and Sarah, in Excel Recruitment.