Become a Buyer for a Major Department Store: How-To Guide

Learn how to become a department store buyer. Research the education and career requirements, licensure and experience required for starting a career in retail purchasing.

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Do I Want to Be a Department Store Buyer?

Department store buyers are responsible for purchasing the goods and products that are sold in stores. These products can range from clothing and accessories to sporting goods and furniture. Buyers must find the best products for the lowest prices. Specific duties include evaluating inventory, researching new suppliers and traveling to trade shows. Overtime work is common, and the more reserved personalities may need to 'push themselves' to be assertive enough when it comes to negotiating prices.

Job Requirements

While there are no specific educational requirements for buyers beyond a high school diploma, most stores prefer applicants with some formal training. According to job postings from Monster.com, major department stores want applicants to have a bachelor's degree and several years of experience. Below are some of the requirements to become a buyer at a major department store.

Common Requirements
Degree Level Bachelor's degree**
Degree Field Business, economics or accounting*
Experience 3-5 years of experience and/or training**
Certification Not required, but available*
Key Skills Strong communication and negotiation skills, the ability to meet deadlines*

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **Monster.com (July 2012).

Step 1: Earn a Bachelor's Degree

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a high school diploma is the minimum educational requirement for working as a retail buyer, but those who wish to advance to management must hold at least a bachelor's degree. A degree is also required for certain voluntary certifications.

Individuals can pursue a bachelor's degree program in business, retail or fashion. Students take courses related to sales, management, merchandising, marketing, buying and selling. While a degree in business provides students with the necessary skills to work as buyers, a fashion or retail degree features more career-related courses. These include visual merchandising, fashion trends, fashion inventory and apparel merchandising.

Success Tip:

Begin developing experience in retail. Even while pursuing a degree, you may want to consider having a part-time retail job while in school. Experience is a major factor to obtain employment as a buyer, and having experience in the retail industry after graduation will be beneficial.

Step 2: Gain Experience as an Assistant Buyer or Purchasing Agent

Before obtaining a buyer position, graduates may work as assistant buyers. Workers in this position assist a buyer in the purchasing process. The duties vary depending on the department store and employer, but common duties include managing the flow of samples, sending out purchase orders and coordinating logistics with buyers.

Success Tips:

Develop your keys skills to become a buyer. In preparation for your career as a buyer, as an assistant buyer, you can start to learn about the industry and communication with other professionals in the field. You also have an opportunity to develop a basic knowledge of buying products and goods, negotiating prices, managing time and solving problems.

Earn voluntary certification. Several professional organizations offer certification for non-management purchasing agents. The American Purchasing Society offers the Certified Purchasing Professional certification, and the Association for Operations Management offers the Certified Supply Chain Professional credential.

Step 3: Advance to a Management Position

The BLS suggests five years of experience is typically the minimum requirement for moving into management. As an experienced buyer, you may advance to an assistant purchasing manager to gain additional experience and on-the-job training. Senior management positions include supply manager and purchasing manager.

Success Tip:

Earn advanced voluntary certification. If you hold a bachelor's degree and have at least three years of management experience, you qualify to earn the Certified Professional in Supply Management credential.

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