Retail Buyer

Job Description:

Retail buyers choose products for shops to sell.

Job Category:
Retail & Consumer

What you will do:

You may work for high street retailers, mail order companies or online sellers. You’ll be responsible for one area like fashion, cosmetics, DIY or electronics.

Your day-to-day tasks may include:

  • analysing and forecasting trends from consumer data
  • attending trade fairs to find new products
  • managing product quality and getting customer feedback
  • negotiating prices, orders and delivery dates
  • presenting collections to senior managers
  • tracking sales figures, managing stock levels and keeping to budgets
  • checking and reacting to competitor activities
  • adapting quickly to changing consumer behaviour


You’ll need:

  • maths knowledge
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently

As well as:

  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be flexible and open to change (adaptability skills)
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • customer service skills
  • the ability to sell products and services
  • persuading and negotiating skills
  • the ability to use your initiative (ambition/drive)
Illustration of employee looking at workspace

Entry Requirements:

To become a Retail Buyer, you typically don’t need specific subjects, but a good general education and certain skills are valuable for this role. Retail Buyers are responsible for selecting and purchasing products to be sold in retail stores. Here are some subjects and skills that can be advantageous:

  1. Mathematics: Strong math skills are crucial for analysing financial data, managing budgets, and negotiating prices with suppliers.
  2. Business Studies: Business studies can provide you with foundational knowledge of business concepts, including supply chain management, marketing, and retail operations.
  3. Economics: While not always available, economics courses can offer valuable insights into market trends, consumer behaviour, and pricing strategies.
  4. English: Effective communication skills are essential for writing reports, emails, and negotiating with suppliers.
  5. IT/Computer Science: Proficiency with spreadsheet software and data analysis tools is valuable for tracking inventory, sales, and supplier performance.
  6. Design and Technology: Understanding product design and quality standards can be beneficial for evaluating the merchandise.
  7. Geography: Some products have geographical considerations, so knowledge of geography can be an asset.
  8. Foreign Languages: If you plan to work with international suppliers, knowing a foreign language can be advantageous.

Post School

You’ll usually need a degree or college qualification in retail or business. Some retail experience will also help.

You can do a degree before joining a retail company graduate scheme. Employers recruit from a range of degree subjects. Some particularly relevant subjects include:

  • marketing
  • fashion buying and merchandising
  • fashion and business
  • retail business management

You could choose a course that includes a year’s work placement to get relevant experience alongside your qualification. Or you could gain experience from a part-time job or a summer internship.

Your university careers service can help you to find part-time roles, placements and internships.


You could do a course at college to get some of the skills needed to work in retail. Examples in the UK are:

  • Level 2 Certificate in Understanding Retail Operations
  • Level 2 Diploma in Fashion Retail
  • Level 3 Diploma in Retail Skills

A course may help you to get your first job. You could then move into buying as your experience grows.

The following apprenticeships are relevant to this role.

On the retail side:

  • retail team leader advanced apprenticeship
  • retail manager higher apprenticeship

On the buying side:

  • buyer and merchandiser higher apprenticeship
  • assistant buyer and assistant merchandiser degree apprenticeship

You can start as an assistant buyer and go on to become a junior buyer and work your way up. To go straight into a buying role, you’ll usually need a qualification in retail or business.

It’s possible to get experience in retail on the shop-floor, in visual merchandising, or as an admin assistant in a buyer’s office. You can then spend time learning, doing training and getting qualifications on the job.

Other Routes
Some companies in fashion retail offer training schemes specifically for buyers. These tend to be aimed at graduates. Other types of retailers offer general store management training schemes with the option to specialise in buying later on.

You can also take procurement and supply qualifications in the UK specifically, through the Chartered Institute of Purchasing & Supply.

Working Hours and Environment:

You’ll usually work 35 to 40 hours, Monday to Friday, although tight deadlines can often mean working late.

You’ll spend most of your time in an office, usually the head office of your organisation. You may go out to visit stores or spend time away to meet suppliers and attend trade fairs locally or overseas.

Career Path & Progression:

With experience and training you could become a senior buyer, buying controller or head of buying. You could also move into product management, marketing or merchandising.