Career Choice: Retail Buyer

Career Choice: Retail Buyer
  • Opening Intro -

    Retail management continues to change and evolve as online shops battle department stores for consumer dollars more than ever before.


Behind the scenes an army of buyers are busy, planning future purchases, reviewing inventories, negotiating prices with manufacturers and ensuring that store merchandise is current and priced competitively. Buyers are sometimes known as merchandisers, product managers or procurement specialists, individuals that must have previous retail experience and usually will have a degree in retail management or a similar field.


The role of a buyer may vary dramatically among retail outlets, but such individuals typically source goods directly from original equipment manufacturers and other producers to sell to customers. Buyers work with management and other retail specialists to determine customer trends and to find products that will meet customer demand. Buyers choose, procure and pay for merchandise and may work with sales staff to introduce new products.


Retail buyers will have at least a high school diploma and may have completed on-the-job training that the U.S. Bureau for Labor Statistics says lasts for at least a year. For buyers wanting to work for department stores and high-end retail shops, a bachelor’s degree and previous retail experience are usually required. An advanced degree can be beneficial for the buyer desiring to move into upper management.


The median wage for retail buyers and wholesale buyers was $50,490 as of 2011. Salaries ranged from $29,660 for those in the 10th percentile to $90,800 for buyers in the 90th percentile. Buyers in the 25th percentile averaged $38,500 per year while those in the 75th percentile averaged $68,100 per year. The median wage in 2011 was $50,500 according to the BLS.

Wages for buyers were strongest in the northeast with New Jersey, Connecticut and New York leading the nation. A NJ average salary of $62,900 was just ahead of Connecticut’s $62,800 and New York’s $60,100. Buyers in Georgia, Arkansas, Alaska and Minnesota could also expect much higher than average wages.

At the other end of the salary spectrum, buyers in Idaho earned just $37,100 per year on average, the lowest rate in the nation besides Guam and Puerto Rico. Alabama, Kentucky, Montana and Hawaii each came in below $40,000 per year.

Job Outlook

The changing dynamic of the retail industry means that prospective buyers should be Internet savvy and knowledgeable of market conditions and business practices. The BLS forecasts that job growth for buyers will increase by seven percent from 2010 to 2010 or slightly below the average for all jobs. Buyers should be analytical and have strong negotiating skills, with decisiveness an important trait in an industry that is constantly on the go.


O*Net OnLine: Summary Report for:
13-1022.00 – Wholesale and Retail Buyers, Except Farm Products

U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Outlook Handbook — Purchasing Managers, Buyers, and Purchasing Agents

See AlsoCareer Choice: RN with an MBA


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Categories: Career Planning