The world of retail is fast-paced and diverse. Behind the hustle and bustle of the shop floor lies a hard-working industry of professionals to ensure everything runs smoothly. One of the most important positions in the process is the retail buyer - the individual ultimately in charge of making sure products reach the shelves of stores.
The retail buyer is more than just a purchaser: before decisions can be made over which products to stock in-store, the buyer engages in research and analysis of consumer trends and behaviours. After putting together a buying strategy, decisions must be made on budgets, time-scales and where to source products intended for stores. Successful buyers must have excellent mathematical skill, a creative approach to problem solving and be able to drive a hard bargain with suppliers.
The roles and responsibilities of the retail buyer extend across a number of areas:
Planning and strategy:
The job of the retail buyer 'begins' with planning - identifying and analysing consumer trends and patterns which might work for their organisation. Buyers must be able to not only analyse the results of research, but use the data to predict future results. Current events and culture will play a big part in consumer behaviour, so the buyer needs to keep up-to-date with the latest news and research. Once data has been analysed, retail buyers are in a position to create a buying strategy - reflecting the needs, identity and budget of their organisation.
After identifying which products to acquire for their organisation, retail buyers must meet with suppliers to agree on price and make purchases. Retail buyers can expect to travel extensively - attending trade shows, meeting wholesalers and visiting stores - during this time. Good negotiation skills, to ensure sufficient quantities of product are acquired within means and budget, are crucial.
Purchase and delivery:
The buyer ultimately purchases the products to be sold in their retail outlets - but the job does not end there. Once acquired, products must be delivered to shops - it is the buyer's role to oversee delivery and ensure the right stock ends up in the right place.
Management and presentation:
The role of the retail buyer extends to stock management and, in some cases, the manner in which new products are introduced. Typical challenges include monitoring stock levels across different stores, analysing purchasing trends and moving stock from one location to another to bolster sales. Once stock has been delivered to the shop floor, the buyer may engage in consumer feedback - gathering information on new trends and what customers liked or did not like about certain products.
Creativity and energy are important traits for the retail buyer. While working with budgets and product quantities are the everyday requirements of the role, a buyer must often think outside the box to get around restrictions and challenges - using his or her skill to maintain relationships across the industry, promote the identity of their brand and, most important of all, deliver sales results to their organisation.