I have received a number of emails asking me about what I do [retail buying] and what it’s all about and I thought I could share that with all of you that may be thinking these questions and haven’t yet asked lol… here are a handful of frequently asked questions, with my best responses regarding a day in my life as a buyer.
Q: What did you study in order to be a Retail Buyer/ What minimum qualification is required?
After high school, I studied the business of fashion at Lisof, but there other qualifications that would help in this field, namely fashion design, merchandising, textiles, etc. there are numerous options and the minimum qualification required is a diploma.
Q: How did you start your career/ Where does one have to start in the workplace to get to this level, in terms of role?
After finishing at Lisof, I applied for and made it into the graduate program at Edcon and from there, worked my way up after completing the graduate program and being a trainee buyer, to working as an assistant and finally reaching the level of a buyer. Keep in mind the ranks you need to get through may differ from one company to the next. Starting in a graduate program would be advised, as they train you on applying what you learnt in varsity/college, practically in the company’s work environment, without the pressure of being expected to perform as you are still learning. Anyway, a year ago I moved to another retailer in Cape Town, and lived happily ever after lol.
Q: In simple terms what does being a Retail Buyer entail/ What does a typical day in such a job entail?
Simply put, as a buyer, I am responsible for getting the products that people buy in stores, there on time for them to buy, by on time, I mean if it’s a summer dress, it can’t get there in May when its cold.
There is a lot that goes into doing this, like trends research, hot colours of the season, what worked and didn’t work in the past, how much money you have to buy the stuff you want to put in and you need to juggle how you’re going to split that money between the different things you are responsible for (eg: tops, bottoms, dresses); buyers have planners to help them work out their budgets and finances, so don’t worry too much if you aren’t a whiz with numbers. Depending on what you buy, you then need to find/create styles to be produced/manufactured, explain that to suppliers and give them orders, communicate with them throughout the process to make sure they make the orders as you want them to be and make sure everything happens in time to make it to stores on the date its due.
A typical day would involve responding to emails from suppliers and others I may work with (this is all day, everyday), researching trends, preparing for meetings (usually to feedback to management on what you will be doing or have done), processing orders and other paperwork (there’s a lot of admin) and now and then, not part of a typical day, but you travel overseas to see what’s what with the trends for the next season (brace yourself for lots of walking).
Q: What advice would you give to someone interested in starting a career in Retail Buying?
Be prepared to work hard, cause you need to multitask both physically, with all that needs to be juggled in the office and mentally with working in 3 seasons at a time, all the time. If you want to do it solely to see the world and travel and all that “fabulous” stuff, rather look at something else cause you might land up in a department that doesn’t require as much travelling; cause honestly, it’s not as glamorous as its made out to be.
I hope all that can help all you aspiring fashion buyers out there, and if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment below and I will respond; and please also fill in the poll below.