This job is sometimes referred to by alternative titles
Buyers purchase goods to sell in warehouses, shops or department stores.
Buyers usually start on about
$42K per year
Buyers with five or more years' experience may earn up to
$115K per year
Source: Trade Me Jobs, 'July-December 2015 Salary Guide', 2015.
Pay for buyers varies depending on the size of the business they work for, what other duties they do, and how much experience they have.
- Buyers usually start on about $42,000 a year.
- Experienced buyers with at least five years' experience can earn up to $115,000 a year.
Source: Trade Me Jobs, 'July-December 2015 Salary Guide', 2015.
(This information is a guide only. Find out more about the figures and diagrams in our job information)
What you will do
Buyers may do some or all of the following:
- review stock levels and order products
- learn about new products and consumer trends
- talk with sales representatives and negotiate prices with suppliers
- inspect, compare and select goods for sale
- arrange for payment and delivery
- decide how much to charge for goods
- assist with product range and development.
Skills and knowledge
Buyers need to have knowledge of:
- the market in which they intend to sell the goods
- the products they are selling
- competitors' prices, services and products
- presentation and sales techniques
- shopping and fashion trends
- global product trends
- budgeting, currency conversion and exchange rates.
- work regular business hours, but may have to work longer hours when travelling
- usually work in offices, but also spend time in warehouses and shops
- usually travel domestically and sometimes internationally, to trade shows, seminars and expos.
What's the job really like?
Noema te Hau
"Buyers need to know the retail industry inside out and gain experience by starting from the bottom," says Noema te Hau. "My focus is on profit and making sure the store is making money. So weekly, daily and even hourly, I'm continually monitoring profit, which can be stressful. In a supermarket, where things are happening at 100 miles an hour, I also have to be prepared to be flexible and patient."
Work changes with the seasons
Observing seasonal trends is also important. "Christmas is always a challenge. I need to get in enough stock, especially sponges for trifles, eclair cases, cake mixes and baking ingredients. It's always the small things that count too, like making sure we've got enough hair dyes for the school ball!"
Being part of a team
While much of the buying process is done on computer, Noema says buyers need to enjoy interacting with people. "I work as a team with company representatives to negotiate prices and work out the best way to sell their products through things like product location, space and presentation.
"It's setting goals and achieving them that makes the job fulfilling. I can set a target, for example to sell 20 pallets of toilet paper in a week, and I achieve that by working out the best way of marketing the product."
Nick finds out what it's like to be a buyer for a retail menswear chain - 6.30 mins. (Video courtesy of ServiceIQ)
Clinton: Well you’re gonna be part of that process at Barkers Menswear – one of New Zealand’s leading fashion stores. Retail buyer Wade is in charge of creating the clothing line for the company’s eight stores.
Wade: Hi! Nick? I’m Wade.
Nick: Nice to meet you.
Wade: How are ya?
Nick: Good thanks, how are you?
Wade: Good, have you got a bit of an interest in fashion?
Nick: Yeah I do actually, I just reckon it’s a really cool industry, and I’d like to know more about it and what you do.
Wade: OK, well the reason that we’re here at a place like this is that this is actually part of the job, especially when I’m travelling. There’s a lot of looking, and a lot of taking photos of people on the street.
Nick: So why do you take the photos?
Wade: A lot of it’s to do with if I see something that I think can work for our store, and we can put it in for the next season. That’s just part of it, so I’ll show you the rest of it. We’ll head back to the office and we’ll take it from there.
Clinton: Wade has just come back from a trip to Europe where he was collecting research and Nick is going to help him choose a new garment for the next season.
Wade: So another big part of it is, it’s not just taking photos and looking at what is being worn but we do actually do a little bit of purchasing, and what we’re looking at here is trying to find construction of garments that I feel will be good for our customer. Let’s hang a few of these up, and take it from there.
Clinton: Overseas trends set the tone but there is a lot of work to do before it becomes a Barkers shirt so Nick and Wade have some important decisions to make.
Wade: Alright, so let's choose one of these and we’ll take it to the next process.
Nick: We’ll use this one.
Wade: OK, fantastic.
Wade: OK, so what we’ll do now is take a cutting of this. What we have here is called a GSM cutter, and what this does is take an exact cutting of the fabric. Perfect!
Clinton: The circle is used to weigh the fabric before a creative meeting with Sam determines the cut and styling.
Wade: Hi Sam! This is Nick.
Sam: Hi Nick! Welcome to Barkers! Take a seat.
Wade: Alright, this is the one Nick’s chosen.
Sam: Good choice.
Wade: We just want to have a look, we probably want to do it in the classic fit.
Wade: The qualities for the job are pretty much a focus on detail. Product is everything – if the product is wrong, nothing is going to work after that. Making sure that you’re catering to who you’re trying to target is very, very important, there’s no point in just sticking to a standard formula or otherwise you’ll end up just having the same stock every season and that’s no fun for anyone.
Sam: Well I’ll go and show Nick how to carry on the next part.
Sam: Cool, thanks!
Sam: OK, so we now have to tell the factory how to basically make the shirt. So what I’ll get you to do is I’ll get you to measure the chest of it, and then we can translate that onto a spec.
Clinton: The various measurements are calculated for each size from extra small to 5XL. Then the sample shirt and paperwork are sent off to factories in China. Wade has a small team that makes sure the clothes get to the customer.
Wade: Every day is very, very different. It could be creating a range, it could be analysing the stock sales, it could be shifting stock around stores, making sure the right stores have the right stock, so it’s very, very varied.
Sam: OK Nick, this is a sample that we get from our factory, so basically we try it on Wade and make any necessary alterations as we see fit.
Clinton: Luckily Wade is a perfect medium so they use him as a model for checking that the garment fits.
Wade: Alright, the body’s looking good, Sam, that looks fantastic, but we need to do something with these sleeves.
Sam: Yeah, the sleeves are a little bit wide in the width, so we’ll pin that back.
Wade: Yep, let’s trim that back.
Clinton: Nick has to pin the jacket before sending the changes back to the factory.
Wade: Don’t mind about stabbing me, I’m kind of used to it!
Sam: Oh that’s really good Nick, you’ve done really well. So from what you’ve pinned here I can make the necessary changes and let the factory know, and then they’ll send me another sample and hopefully it will be all great. Thanks.
Clinton: The final result of all this effort will be a garment carrying the distinctive Barkers style.
Wade: Here we have here, which is a finished garment. It’s something that I saw over in London, and what we’ve done here is we’ve added a few things – we’ve added an extra pocket on this side, and as you can see we’ve got some satin tape and we’ve got some satin buttons. A great part of it is being able to create things like this, getting them into store and actually seeing them on the public and watching them sell.
Clinton: To know what sells you need to get in on the shop floor.
Wade: The biggest thing I could recommend would be to get in and actually understand the whole retail operation and the retail business, so that may mean starting on the shop floor to begin, and then after they do that they need to understand how the business works, and almost treat the business like it’s their own.
Clinton: Wade’s job is to sell out every season’s line, but you can’t do that without good management systems.
Wade: Logistics is another massive part of retail, so what we have here is a live picking system, where stores sell the product and within two minutes it registers on our pick screen, and we can have the stock replaced and off to the stores the very next day, so keeping them fully stocked.
Clinton: Barcodes are attached in China so that garments can be tracked through the whole process. Information about what stock is required, including which shelf it is stored on, is uploaded to a hand-held scanner.
Wade: OK, so we’re going to do a pick here now so that’s yours, let’s go get it.
Nick: What happens if I get the wrong one?
Wade: Well if you get the wrong one, scan the barcode and it will make a noise like that.
Clinton: The stock is picked and ready to be sent to the store within the hour. Nick’s seen the whole process so what did he think?
Wade: Alright Nick, thanks for coming in and letting me show you a bit of what I do and I hope you've found some interesting things. What was the most interesting?
Nick: About how it’s always changing. I reckon it’s going to be a real cool industry to get into and thanks for having me.
Wade: Good luck with everything.
Nick: See ya.
Clinton: Retail Institute qualifications can provide entry into a wide variety of dynamic roles available in retail. The National Certificate Level 2 provides core skills for all retailers. Level 3 advances skills in preparation for a store supervisor’s role. Further study to Level 4 provides a foundation for future management roles.
There are no specific entry requirements to become a buyer, but employers usually prefer you to have retail experience, or tertiary qualifications in business, marketing, management or commerce.
Many buyers start their career by working in retail outlets as salespeople, and gain skills required for the job by attending trade fairs and assisting with stock purchasing.
There are no specific secondary education requirements to become a buyer. However, useful subjects include English, maths and accounting.
Buyers need to be:
- outgoing, confident and persuasive
- able to make good judgements
- good communicators.
You've got to keep ahead of trends all the time. This can involve looking in magazines, searching on the internet, watching television and reading newspapers to keep up to date.
Noema te Hau
Useful experience for buyers includes work as a:
- customer services worker.
Experience with importing and exporting is also useful.
Buyers can choose to gain certification in production and inventory management through NZPICS Incorporated, which offers modules in all aspects of production management and planning.
Find out more about training
- Retail NZ
- 0800 472 472 - www.retail.kiwi/contact - www.retail.kiwi
- 0800 863 693 - email@example.com - www.serviceiq.org.nz
What are the chances of getting a job?
Retail sales growth has led to more buyers being employed
There has been continued growth in the retail sector over the past eight years, resulting in an increase in the number of buyers employed in retail.
Available jobs may not be advertised externally
However, competition for buyer jobs is high, and vacancies are not always advertised. Often employers fill vacancies by promoting existing staff from positions such as sales assistant, shop manager or area manager.
Types of employers varied
Most large retailers employ buyers. These include:
- department stores
- clothing stores
- homeware and hardware chains.
Smaller stores also have buyers, but the job of buying is often combined with other tasks, such as managing the store. In many cases the owner of the store also does the buying.
- Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, '2006-2014 Occupation Data' (prepared for Careers New Zealand), 2015.
- Statistics New Zealand, 'Retail Trade Survey: March 2016 Quarter', accessed July 2016, (www.statistics.govt.nz).
Progression and specialisations
Buyers can progress to being brand managers or merchandise managers.
Buyers usually specialise in a certain type of product such as vehicles, clothing, food products, electronic goods or raw materials such as wool. They can also specialise in brand management or visual merchandising.
Some buyers go on to set up their own retail businesses.
Last updated 28 September 2017