How to Become a Fashion Retail Buyer: Education and Career Roadmap

Find out how to become a fashion retail buyer. Research the education and training requirements and learn about the experience you need to advance your career in retail buying.

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Do I Want to Be a Fashion Retail Buyer?

Fashion retail buyers decide which products their stores will sell. By researching market trend analyses and listening to fashion forecasts, retail buyers stay ahead of the curve while appealing to their target customers. They are responsible for composing business plans and maintaining strong relationships with vendors.

About eight percent of all buyers worked in retail as of 2012, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Although these workers spend their days in mostly comfortable indoor settings, travel is often required, and many buyers must put in overtime.

Job Requirements

While a degree is not necessary for all retail buying positions, most jobs require at least a few years of experience and knowledge of the field. A bachelor's degree is usually required to advance to higher-level management positions. Students may choose to major in a business-related field. The following table contains the requirements for fashion retail buyers:

Common Requirements
Degree Level A bachelor's degree is necessary for some, but not all, positions*
Degree Field No specific field is required, but courses in business or accounting may be helpful*
Certifications Certification is not required, but it may be helpful to complete a certification programs through the American Purchasing Society (APS)*
Experience Required experience varies; management positions typically require about 5 years experience*
Key Skills Analytical skills, decision-making skills, math skills, negotiating skills*
Computer Skills Microsoft Excel, Oracle procurement software, point of sale software**

Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **O*net Online.

Step 1: Obtain a Bachelor's Degree

Fashion retail buyers are often required to have a bachelor's degree, though not in all cases. A degree is necessary for career advancement in this field. Coursework in business and accounting should be valuable to students who seek to work as a retail buyer. Excellence in math and communication is essential since buyers are required to work with budgets and communicate with external vendors.

Success Tips:

  • Gain communication skills. Most clothing buyers have a team working under them, so leadership and communication skills are essential. They are also expected to negotiate and build relationships with external vendors whose products will be sold in their stores.
  • Learn to use computers. Fashion retail buyers must document fashion trends and purchases. As a result, it's necessary to have a keen understanding of computers, specifically database applications.

Step 2: Gain Experience

Because fashion retail buyers are expected to have extensive knowledge of the fashion industry, it's important that they gain experience. By working in the field, fashion retail buyers can build their understanding of sales and product marketing. They also can learn about consumer tendencies.

Success Tips:

  • Begin as an assistant fashion buyer. Most fashion retail buyers begin as assistant fashion buyers and work their way up. When first beginning in the fashion buying industry, employees are usually assigned tasks like checking invoices and monitoring stock.
  • Stay informed. The job of a retail buyer is never done since there are always new trends or products that consumers will want. Therefore, buyers must stay up-to-date on current fashions and upcoming trends. Reading trade magazines and watching seasonal runway shows are two ways that fashion retail buyers may monitor the fashion environment.

Step 3: Become Certified

Becoming certified can signify a certain level of experience and knowledge. The APS offers both the Certified Purchasing Professional (CPP) and Certified Purchasing Professional Manager (CPPM). To earn the CPPM credential, you must have managerial experience and hold or be applying for the CPP credential. The APS also offers two specialized credentials: the Certified Green Purchasing Professional (CGPP) and the Certified Professional Purchasing Consultant (CPPC). The CGPP is for retail buyers who are trained in sustainability and the CPPC is for individuals who consult or teach in purchasing.

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