Purchasing, Procurement and Retail Buying Careers

Our Recruitment Consultant Sarah recruits across Retail Head Office and Supply Chain and always gets questions from jobseekers about careers in Buying. In this video, she breaks down the difference between Buying, Purchasing and Procurement and the skills employers look for when recruiting each.



Aislinn Lea, Head of Fashion & Non-Food, Excel Recruitment

Retail University

Excel’s Fashion and Non-Food Director Aislinn Lea on why a retail career is the one for anyone looking to learn and the world of opportunities retail jobs offer

The term university I believe comes from the Latin universitas magistrorum et scholarium which roughly means “an association of teachers and scholars” which to me, is exactly what the retailing world is. A retail career is a world of opportunity. It is an ever changing world of diversity, excitement, pace, people, leadership and growth. I struggle to think of another industry or career path that can offer you the diversity of skills and experiences that retail can. Depending on your skills and interests, retail offers you the opportunity to:

  • Be a decision maker: insight of managing and leading a business like it is your own
  • Be a teacher: instrumental in training, motivating and encouragement
  • Be a financial wizard: managing controllable costs, analysing your trading reports improve sales growth and create a profitable store / business
  • Be a magician and juggler- learn the art of multi-tasking and managing the needs of the business, of your customers and your team without breaking a sweat
  • Be creative – to allow for change by understanding your people, your customer, company culture
  • Be everything to everyone – a leader, a manager, a friend, a personal shopper, a coach, an inspiration and ultimately to be part of the art in delivering the ultimate shopping experience

I recently received an email from a candidate that I placed in a new management role letting me know how he was finding his new job. In it, he described his new company as a “University of Retail” which struck me firstly, as a fantastic compliment for our client. Secondly, it highlighted just how unique retail is as an industry for precisely this reason: in retail, every day’s a school day.

Retail management is one of the most progressive careers in the market, an industry where the opportunities and careers available are as ever-changing as the products we sell and customers we serve. To a hardworking and passionate individual pursuing a retail career the doors that open are endless and a result, exciting, challenging and rewarding. From Management, Head Office or Buying to HR, Marketing, E-Tailing and Visual Merchandising there are exciting career opportunities and career paths across Grocery, Fashion and Non-Food retailing along with countless chances to learn, meet new people, try new things, and see new places. On top of this, it’s an extremely fast-paced industry, constantly innovating and evolving, which provides anybody who wants to embrace new ideas and technologies the opportunity to really make their mark.

Retail is Ireland’s largest indigenous industry employing over 280,000 people and accounting for a large contribution to the Irish economy. Its also one of the fastest evolving industries there is. As retail continues to grow, we need to continue to attract new talent and new leaders into the world of retail. Equally we need to hold on to our current talent, our scholars in retail who can mentor, train and develop the new recruits, the new team, the new leaders.

Want a Career as a Merchandise Planner?

Thinking about a Career as a Merchandise Planner? Excel’s Retail Head Office Consultant Sarah Hurley takes you through everything you need to know…

Merchandise Planning is a relatively new function within Irish buying offices but is just as exciting, fast-paced and rewarding a career as Retail Buying. Merchandise Planners are high in demand. They have a unique skillset and niche expertise and are rewarded with competitive salaries and benefits, a broad career path and numerous choices and plentiful job opportunities with the biggest retailers.

What is a Merchandise Planner?

Merchandise Planners operate a crucial function within a retail Head Office. They work side by side with Buyers to plan, execute and deliver ranges.

What do they do?

People often explain merchandise planning as getting the right merchandise, in the right place, at the right time, in the right quantities at the right price to maximise sales and to minimise markdown. With the buyer, they will look at past performance and future trends, to predict what items will sell best and plan accordingly.

Right Merchandise – Styles, brands, colours, sizes

Right Place – Which store, depending on their budget and location

Right Time – Having merchandise in stores at the right time in the season i.e. ready for Christmas or ‘Back to School’

Right Quantities – Enough for the stores to make their budgets but not have to markdown stock at the end of the season

The Right Price £££– Those that will attract customers in over the competition yet generate a reasonable return on investment for the retailer i.e. profit

What do you need?

Merchandise Planners are in demand because they have a unique blend of skills-

Analytical skills – enjoy analysing data and using this to identify trends and potential risks and opportunities

Communication skills – Must be able to communicate this data and trends to people and build great relationships with suppliers and in-store teams.

Quick thinking– Retail is incredibly fast-paced and merchandise planners need to be quick thinking to spot trends, evaluate large amounts of data and make sound decisions. Things can change very quickly and there are always deadlines to meet.

Commercial Awareness – you need to understand what is going on in the marketplace, your competitors and be able to spot gaps and opportunities

How do you get started?

Most Merchandise Planners come from either a fashion buying & merchandising course or a business/finance related degree and have a mix of both retail and office based experience. Graduates will start their careers as an Allocator or Assistant Merchandiser and work their way up. Opportunities exist within the fashion and non-fashion retail and open up a broad and varied career path.

Aislinn Lea, Head of Fashion & Non-Food, Excel Recruitment

Excel’s Aislinn Lea- Retail is a career, not just a job

As the CAO and college places hit headlines again, head of Fashion & Non- Food Recruitment Aislinn Lea reflects on how retail can be overlooked as a career choice and why this is a mistake…

This past week has been a stressful time for many young people since learning their Leaving Cert results last Wednesday, followed by the anxious wait to see if they received a college place in Monday’s CAO offers. These 17/18/19-year-old will have many huge decisions to make in the next few days about the path they choose. Often in all the talk of opportunities in STEM subjects and the rise and fall of points, many people, regardless of age, overlook retail as an exciting and rewarding career path.

When I began my career in retail, I had no idea it would provide me with the opportunities and experiences that it has, eventually leading me to recruitment, working every day with fantastic clients and candidates, meeting new people and filling new and different roles every week. I couldn’t recommend retail more highly as an industry or a career path.

Progressive Careers

Retail Management is one of the most progressive careers in the market, an industry where the opportunities and careers available are ever-changing and as a result exciting, challenging and rewarding. The doors that are open to an enthusiastic candidate pursuing a career in retail are endless and include Management, Head Office, Buying, HR, Marketing, E-Tailing, Visual Management, the list goes on.

Not only that, but the vastness, variety and pace of the industry can provide anybody willing to work hard and learn with countless opportunities to meet new people, try new things, and see new places. Retail is an extremely fast-paced industry and is constantly innovating and evolving which provides anybody who wants to embrace new ideas and technologies, the opportunity to really make their mark and add real value to their employer, and their CV.

Those who see retail as a career and not just a job can open themselves up to a whole world of learning. There are many engaging, challenging and ever developing facets of the industry, both technically and commercially, so not only are there valuable life-skills to be gained there is also a huge depth of knowledge to be learned and countless career paths to potentially follow.

Inclusive Industry

Retail as an industry has become more savvy in terms of developing talent and employers are willing to invest more and more into their people through training, learning and development. There is a wealth of fantastic degrees, courses and Graduate Programmes available in retail, including any of the specialisms mentioned above.

Retail is a huge industry and is Ireland’s largest private-sector employer, employing over 282,000 workers across the country.An industry of this scale offers a wide range of opportunities and possibilities for all types of individuals and personalities from those with a natural gift for sales and customer engagement to others with a keen interest in data, tech, marketing or visuals