Clothing Buyer Job Description

by Tom Gresham

    A clothing buyer, frequently known as a fashion buyer, serves a critical role in the fashion industry. Buyers work for retailers and other clothing suppliers to decide the selection of clothes and fashion accessories that their employers will stock for sale. Fashion buyers ultimately affect both the fortunes of retailers and manufacturers as well as designers.

    Buyers often focus on specific departments or clothing types within a store. For instance, a buyer may be assigned to children's casual clothes. Fashion buyers spend a great deal of time traveling. They visit manufacturers, designers and trade shows to view new collections and decide which ones will make sense for the retailer they represent. Buyers at larger retailers frequently work in teams. They must collaborate with other members of a retailer's operation, such as marketers, finance managers and store managers, to make the best decisions and to present the clothes to customers in the best manner.

    Buyers choose clothing lines they believe fit current trends and will be popular with customers. They also must make decisions that fit the needs and styles of their specific employers. In particular, they buy lines of clothes that match the brand of the retailer that will be selling the clothes, meeting customer expectations for the retailer so customers will continue to know what to expect from the business. In addition, buyers make decisions based on finances, considering budget and other factors to determine which lines to purchase and how much to buy. They also negotiate price and product with vendors.

    Fashion buyers frequently work in a range of fashion jobs before climbing to a buyer position. For instance, they may work as a salesperson for a retailer, caring for the stock and working with customers. A sales position helps provide a strong foundation for buying, according to Knowledge @ Wharton. Many buyers study fashion merchandising or design in college, but some work their way into the field without a fashion academic background. Other education backgrounds that can be particularly helpful include business degrees, such as marketing.

    Clothing buyers receive strong pay, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Purchasing managers in department stores earned a mean annual wage of $167,630 in 2011, while those who worked for apparel, piece goods and notions merchant wholesalers earned $143,870. Fashion buyers sometimes have compensation structures that allow for bonuses if their decisions lead to certain sales milestones. The job market for the positions is highly competitive, and growth in positions for purchasing managers, buyers and purchasing agents in all industries is only projected to grow 7 percent from 2010 to 2020.

    About the Author

    Tom Gresham is a freelance writer and public relations specialist who has been writing professionally since 1999. His articles have appeared in "The Washington Post," "Virginia Magazine," "Vermont Magazine," "Adirondack Life" and the "Southern Arts Journal," among other publications. He graduated from the University of Virginia.

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