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Insider advice: buyers share their secrets at Drapers Next Gen

Buyers from Asos, Browns and The Idle Man reveal their insider advice from the world of fashion buying at Drapers Next Generation.

Asos head of buying for womenswear brands Alex Scolding, The Idle Man buyer Thom Scherdel and Browns non-apparel buying manager Ida Petersson reveal what it takes

There’s not one route to becoming a buyer

Scherdel studied at Philip Green’s Fashion Retail Academy for eight months, before landing his first role at Selfridges, while Browns’ Petersson began her career studying law.

A good buyer needs a range of skills

“Your gut is something that you can’t train,” believes Petersson. “You can train someone all the analytical skills, but that passion for product is what it’s about.”

“Talking people round, basically,” adds Scherdel. “Confidence in the business and talking brands round into working with you is key.”

“You have to be a sales person and you have to represent the business the best you can and engage a brand to allow you to represent them. Building that relationship is key,” adds Scolding. “And the stamina and energy you need to be a buyer is incredible. You have to talk to so many people. And then you have to manage it all back at the office. It’s not a 9-5 job at all.”

The secret to being a good buyer is …

“It’s about being really proactive and saying yes, and going over and above all the time,” believes Scherdel.

“Move around between different departments and functions in the business. Read all the sales reports, category analysis. Learn everything that is expected of you,” adds Petersson. “Be open and listen. That’s so important. Be patient, but always plotting with what you want to do. Be strategic with how you present yourself.

Scolding’s top tips are to “be brave and trust your instincts”.

What not to do

Asos’s Scolding says it’s very important to focus on your own career: “Don’t listen to anyone else. Don’t focus on how anyone else is performing. Focus on your own development plan. Take advice, but also be sure about what you want to do. Don’t look sideways – always look forward.”

How to spot a good junior buyer

Scolding says the key is about going “above and beyond” what is expected of you. “What value are you adding to the business? What more could you do? We look for people with the passion and energy within their heart,” she says. “And the confidence and energy to articulate their passion.”

Common misconceptions about the buyer’s role

The biggest misconception is that buying is Glamorous, says Petersson: “That you walk around with a glass of champagne and point at things.”

“The misconception is that it’s a creative role, when it’s actually an analytical role that allows you to be creative,” adds Scolding.

“It is a fun job. You get to travel a lot,” says Scherdel. “But it’s running a business, which is stressful.”

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