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How to be a head of buying for a high street retailer

Rachel Roberts, director at CVUK, on how to gain a role as a head of buying at a high street retailer

A head of buying’s career generally either starts on the shop floor or as a buyer’s admin [assistant], learning the ropes with one the major blue chip retailers.  Many join at the bottom, with a passion to work in fashion and the ability to work in a fast-paced, dynamic and pressurised environment. Most have completed a degree in buying and business and have the business skills, commercial acumen and very importantly analytical skills to work as a buyer.

All successful buyers must have the natural ability to pick winning lines, understand and adapt to their market and be tuned into the season’s trends. Many refer to this as the buyer’s “eye”. Depending on the company you train up in you will be taught the basic skills of being organised, to have good communication and presenting skills and key strong analytical skills, [because] being able to trade and manage your buy is key to the modern day buyer. You also need to able to build strong and honest relationships with external partners, suppliers, providers and other divisions, be able to influence and to negotiate to achieve the biggest profit margins.

As a head of buying you will need to have gained a high level of skills and experience, product and technical knowledge and have a vast network of supplier contacts.  An employer would be looking not only for these strengths but also for great people management skills in order to drive a division’s performance, motivate across all levels, and deliver maximum sales.  You must be able to manage both up and down as you will be exposed to the board whilst signing off the seasonal buys, working closely with the head of merchandising and their teams in achieving profit and business growth.

Salaries at this level range from £85,000 to £95,000.

Readers' comments (1)

  • Thierry BAYLE

    For me, buying is about Art and Science.
    The Art is knowing What to buy.
    The Science is knowing How Much to buy and When to bring the goods in.
    In larger organisations the how much can be done by planners. With indies the planner and buyer can be the same person. Do you agree?
    Do we all use an Open To Buy plan to ensure we accurate forecast sales and stock and therefore understand how much to buy and/ or how much to design and manufacture?

    The OTB plan is an integrated buying and merchandisoing approach that ties trogether all yoru marketing, customer service, point of sale, accounting, operations ... and gives focus to improve cash flow - key int he current economy!

    Thierry Bayle

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