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Has anyone here worked as a buyer for a department store?

Dinhilion

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Hey,

So I am looking into career choices and thought that being a buyer would be interesting. Is there anyone here who has experience with it and can give me a rundown on typical day, pay scales, enjoyment etc?
 
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Nope sorry. Not me it is not my typical kind of work and I think it is rather a rare choice well good luck with finding somebody who have and who can help you with your questions.
 

countdemoney

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I know a couple of buyers in my extended network of friends. It varies greatly by commodity/type of buying, size of store or chain and organization. I.e. the experience of a buyer for washing machines is far different than the buyer for fashion.

Most buyers reside at corporate HQ or key production areas (like Asia), so you'll need to find someone local or be ready to move. Target is primarily MPLS based and Wal-Mart in Arkansas, as examples.

Be able to show strong math skills or proficiency with spreadsheets.
 

crazyquik

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Originally Posted by Dinhilion
Hey,

So I am looking into career choices and thought that being a buyer would be interesting. Is there anyone here who has experience with it and can give me a rundown on typical day, pay scales, enjoyment etc?


Yes.

Originally Posted by countdemoney
I know a couple of buyers in my extended network of friends. It varies greatly by commodity/type of buying, size of store or chain and organization. I.e. the experience of a buyer for washing machines is far different than the buyer for fashion.

Most buyers reside at corporate HQ or key production areas (like Asia), so you'll need to find someone local or be ready to move. Target is primarily MPLS based and Wal-Mart in Arkansas, as examples.

Be able to show strong math skills or proficiency with spreadsheets.


Mostly.

Maybe I will write more, later.
 

Lord-Barrington

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Fashion buyers is an incredibly competitive field because it's the dream job of every fashionista out there. You usually join a store as an assistant buyer than move up. Some even move up after starting on the retail floor.

Commodity buyers in industry also exist, but what they do varies a lot from one industry to a next. That can also be an extremely interesting job depending on what you're buying, but it's quite different than a fashion buyer where you're usually tasked with going out and evaluating new styles yourself. In industry you're often told what to buy by a technical authority and then it's your job to find the best/cheapest way of procurement.
 

countdemoney

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Read the OP as being a buyer for retail. If OP wants a career in procurement:

ism.ws in the US

http://www.cips.org/ in the UK

both conduct annual salary surveys and have chapters in many cities.
 

Lord-Barrington

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Originally Posted by countdemoney
Read the OP as being a buyer for retail. If OP wants a career in procurement:

ism.ws in the US

http://www.cips.org/ in the UK

both conduct annual salary surveys and have chapters in many cities.


I did too, but I thought I might suggest non-fashion related procurement as a potential career option. It's a pretty interesting field.
 

crazyquik

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Originally Posted by Dinhilion
Hey,

So I am looking into career choices and thought that being a buyer would be interesting. Is there anyone here who has experience with it and can give me a rundown on typical day, pay scales, enjoyment etc?


Originally Posted by countdemoney
I know a couple of buyers in my extended network of friends. It varies greatly by commodity/type of buying, size of store or chain and organization. I.e. the experience of a buyer for washing machines is far different than the buyer for fashion.

Most buyers reside at corporate HQ or key production areas (like Asia), so you'll need to find someone local or be ready to move. Target is primarily MPLS based and Wal-Mart in Arkansas, as examples.

Be able to show strong math skills or proficiency with spreadsheets.


Ok. I am speaking from experience as a retail buyer at a major chain that you've heard of (if you have a pulse).

First, basically all the buyers will be at one corporate office. That means Bentonville, Arkansas for Wal-Mart, Atlanta for Home Depot, Minneapolis for Target, etc. Many of these cities don't score well on theStyleforum cool meter. You've just got to deal with it, or be more selective.

You will work in a cubicle. Even relatively high ranking folks work in a cube.

The real 'math' isn't that hard, but you've got to be very proficient with spreadsheets, at least out to the V-lookup function. There were like two people in my group that could do a pivot table. I was regarded as an Excel whiz because of that.

Being able to give a good powerpoint presentation is also important; but you'll have to sit through enough horrible ones from vendors pitching crap to you that you'll learn quickly what makes the good ones good.

You'll run a lot of reports on whatever automated data software they have, to track sales units, dollars, margin, at all stores or a selection of stores. You'll do this at least weekly or maybe daily ("hmm, I wonder how that item is selling in the 10 stores in the LA market, overlaid/compared to the stores in southern Florida?").

You will feel like a 'big swinging dick' because you control a huge budget and make 'important' decisions, just remember that everyone in the stores hate you and think you're arrogant. And, much of the management will side with the stores, versus the buyers, on basically any issue. It's a matter of outward facing (to the public) versus inward facing (to the company) decision making.

You won't get to travel much. If it's a big retailer, all the vendors come to you. Maybe if you're in fashion, and you're a solid mid-level buyer, you'll get to go to New York once or a few times a year. It's more likely you'll go to China for a week or two touring factories though.

You will have minimal design input. The designers (at your office or at the vendors) will design a few choices and you'll pick one.

The most fun, but also grueling, part is when you're tasked on a product line review. That could be a relatively small project, or could mean you're responsible for a few million in capital expenditures. On the biggest scale, you'll survey every single item you have in a particular group (washing machines or flashlights or hiking boots or flat screen TVs) and see what are the best sellers, where are the holes in the lineup, what is the competition doing, etc. You'll invite all your vendors in, and some ppl who aren't vendors (but want to be) and you'll listen to their pitches. Then you'll crunch the numbers and see who gets to keep their business, who loses business, and who gains business. Then you play them against each other. Then you may design new display methods to best showcase the new products. Then you have to figure out how to get the new products and new display methods into 80-2000 stores and all have the store employees (who range in education from high school drop-outs to educated professionals with very impressive backgrounds) to execute the display the same way. And if you're importing products from China, there is a 3 month lag between when you authorize something and when the products hit the stores.

The pay is low by SF standards and you generally work in suburbia. The job might even induce you to buy a vinyl siding house.

There is quite a bit of turnover and churn at the entry and mid-level. Most of those vendors who are selling you stuff used to do your job. But then they found out they could make more money in sales than they could as a buyer. The only thing is, as a buyer, you have a bit more job stability (although, potentially, less job-portability).
 

spb_lady

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I agree with the guys above, that experience you'll have working as a buyer will highly vary depending on what kind of commodities you're working with.

I used to work as a fashion buyer for slightly more than a year. If you want any comments on this field, let me know.
 

imageWIS

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Originally Posted by Lord-Barrington
Fashion buyers is an incredibly competitive field because it's the dream job of every fashionista out there. You usually join a store as an assistant buyer than move up. Some even move up after starting on the retail floor.

You better know someone to even get an assistant buyer position.
 

imageWIS

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Originally Posted by crazyquik
You will work in a cubicle. Even relatively high ranking folks work in a cube.

Depends on the company, in NYC high ranking people tend to have offices, small offices, but offices nonetheless.

The real 'math' isn't that hard, but you've got to be very proficient with spreadsheets, at least out to the V-lookup function. There were like two people in my group that could do a pivot table. I was regarded as an Excel whiz because of that.
So-called 'retail math' is a fucking joke (if you've done, basic college business math). Lets be totally honest here: in the fashion biz, pivot tables, v-lookups and h-lookups are considered 'advance' Excel skills. They aren't. But, if you know how to use them you'll be ahead of the curve.

Being able to give a good powerpoint presentation is also important; but you'll have to sit through enough horrible ones from vendors pitching crap to you that you'll learn quickly what makes the good ones good.
No job is perfect


You will feel like a 'big swinging dick' because you control a huge budget and make 'important' decisions, just remember that everyone in the stores hate you and think you're arrogant. And, much of the management will side with the stores, versus the buyers, on basically any issue. It's a matter of outward facing (to the public) versus inward facing (to the company) decision making.
If you don't communicate with the stores, from upper management to the sales staff, you are arrogant, and foolish. Communication is a two-way street; the more data you have at your disposal, the more informed, and ultimately better your decisions will be.

You will have minimal design input. The designers (at your office or at the vendors) will design a few choices and you'll pick one.
That problem is easily solved: become a designer


The most fun, but also grueling, part is when you're tasked on a product line review. That could be a relatively small project, or could mean you're responsible for a few million in capital expenditures. On the biggest scale, you'll survey every single item you have in a particular group (washing machines or flashlights or hiking boots or flat screen TVs) and see what are the best sellers, where are the holes in the lineup, what is the competition doing, etc. You'll invite all your vendors in, and some ppl who aren't vendors (but want to be) and you'll listen to their pitches. Then you'll crunch the numbers and see who gets to keep their business, who loses business, and who gains business. Then you play them against each other. Then you may design new display methods to best showcase the new products. Then you have to figure out how to get the new products and new display methods into 80-2000 stores and all have the store employees (who range in education from high school drop-outs to educated professionals with very impressive backgrounds) to execute the display the same way. And if you're importing products from China, there is a 3 month lag between when you authorize something and when the products hit the stores.
Regarding the bolded section: it really depends on the company. My company for example makes a shit-load of vendor decisions (who is in and who is out) based on who the CEO plays golf with. Regardless if the vendor they got rid of was doing well or not...


The pay is low by SF standards and you generally work in suburbia.
SF pay standards exist only in fantasy land.
 

Lord-Barrington

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Originally Posted by imageWIS
You better know someone to even get an assistant buyer position.

I should have rephrased. You usually get into the buying field at that level, if I'm not mistaken. But most retail buyers have significant retail experience before even getting an assistant buyer position.

Something to point out is that fashion purchasing/retail purchasing is a lot different than most business procurement though. Procurement positions in most industries are much more concerned with the global supply chain than in fashion/retail (depending on what area, again).

I work in procurement, btw. Very interesting field and I'd argue that it may be the most interesting place to end up as an entry level worker in a business.
 

imageWIS

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Originally Posted by Lord-Barrington
I should have rephrased. You usually get into the buying field at that level, if I'm not mistaken. But most retail buyers have significant retail experience before even getting an assistant buyer position.

By 'significant retail experience', you mean what exactly?
 

Lord-Barrington

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Originally Posted by imageWIS
By 'significant retail experience', you mean what exactly?

I mean significant time spent working in a retail environment.
 

crazyquik

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I, and many of my coworkers, has minimal to no retail experience before starting as buyers or assistant buyers.

Neiman Marcus, on the other hand, loves floor experience. To the extent that they require you to rotate in and out of the stores and corporate office to move up between positions.
 

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