How to Become a Fashion Buyer
Fashion buying is a great way to get involved in the fashion industry from a business perspective. It can be an exciting and varied career, and you can specialise in areas you’re particularly excited about, like eco-friendly fashion, fashion for the over 60s, or even designer brands. You’ll need to be passionate about fashion trends and blend that enthusiasm with an aptitude for figures and budgets because the role can get very technical indeed. Your skills will need to cover communication, numeracy, and decision-making: more on that later!
Fashion buyers are responsible for a lot of decision-making in terms of what your employer ends up selling. If you’re confident in your knowledge and willing to explain your choices to senior members of staff, and you know your way around fashion brands, becoming a fashion buyer might be the perfect career for you.
What Does a Fashion Buyer do?
Alongside the merchandising team, a fashion buyer is responsible for deciding which products a brand sells.
This involves liaising with the sales and merchandising departments to discover which products do well on the shop floor and online and extrapolating trends from that. It’s more analytical than many people expect: you can’t rely solely on your fashion sense to get you through, but really have to understand what the customers of your brand want.
That said, it’s not all office-based: part of a fashion buyer’s job is to scout out the next big thing. You’ll be on the lookout for new products in your category and attend trade shows to stay up-to-date on industry trends. Plus, it’s a fashion buyer’s job to keep on top of what the competition is doing.
Looking for a bit of glamour? Many buyers attend fashion shows and spend time on social media analysing trends and working out how they could apply to their audience.
How Much Does a Fashion Buyer Earn?
Salaries for buyer jobs vary depending on the workplace. Some department stores, for example, are likely to offer higher salaries. Smaller start-up stores won’t have the same budgets, but working at them could be rewarding and leave a lot of room for career growth.
What Qualifications Are Needed to Become a Fashion Buyer?
Most fashion buyer roles nowadays require a fashion and beauty-related degree to kick-start your career, though some bigger companies do make an effort to hire people who have worked on their shop floors to promote overall career progression within the company.
Course choices like fashion merchandising or fashion business may be especially helpful, but you can always pivot from a straightforward business and finance course, making use of those all-important transferable skills.
One benefit of a more vocational degree is that many courses offer a year in industry – a year spent working sandwiched between years of study. The universities will then help you find a placement for this year, and you’ll leave with connections and some solid experience working in the industry.
Many fashion employers run graduate schemes in their head office, so even if you don’t do a degree that features a year in industry, you can use a degree to your advantage when trying to join a company.
What Skills are Needed to Become a Fashion Buyer?
As we mentioned, fashion buying is a surprisingly number-centric job. Key skills can cover everything from knowing your way around budgets and Microsoft Excel to having a good eye for fashion design and quality.
On top of that, you’ll need strong interpersonal skills, part of which should be negotiation skills. As a buyer, you’ll spend a lot of time talking to suppliers and trying to get the best wholesale price you can for the products you want. You’ll also need to be capable of explaining your decisions to higher-up staff members.
Along with interpersonal skills, this is where analytical skills can come in useful. If you can prove that you made a decision based on solid numbers rather than just a hunch, it’s likely to be well-received.
We’ve also mentioned the ability to spot upcoming fashion trends: this can involve excelling at forecasting popular movements and eventually sourcing a supplier who can provide products that match both the trend and your customer base.
Does Becoming a Fashion Buyer Need Any Work Experience?
It might not surprise you to know that being a fashion buyer is a competitive career to pursue. Who wouldn’t want to shop for a job?
That means that whilst work experience isn’t typically a prerequisite of applying for a job in fashion buying. You might find that you’re a more favourable candidate if you can demonstrate an interest in fashion or retail.
A fashion design qualification is a great way to prove you’re excited and knowledgeable about the industry.
Career Prospects For a Fashion Buyer
Typically, a fashion buyer will start in an entry-level position like a junior buyer. It can be a varied career path, and you might find yourself progressing in a linear manner to assistant buyer and eventually senior buyer.
However, you might also decide you love the analytical side of the business, and take a position within merchandising. You could also end up as purchasing manager, which tends to be a role in senior management. This will involve managing overall retail strategies and managing people and working with marketing teams to promote the brand.
Retail buyers seem to have the dream job. There’s time spent away from the office, befriending suppliers and gaining a deep knowledge of the fashion industry.
If you’ve always been interested in the latest trends and how they can be transformed for different audiences, a career in fashion buying could be exceptionally fulfilling.
Perhaps you’ll specialise in a field like visual merchandising, which looks at the colour schemes and layout of shop fronts and web pages with the aim of making purchasing a more enticing prospect for customers.