Buyer: Retail

Retail Buyers are responsible for planning, selecting, and buying merchandise for a retail organisation. Retail buyers identify, select and purchase stock that matches the retailer's requirements.

Buyers purchase goods to sell in warehouses, shops or department stores. They purchase merchandise that they believe will appeal to the public and which can be sold at a profit. Merchandise is any stock sold in a shop and may include clothes, food, electronic goods, building materials etc.  Buying is an important and responsible role within a retailer as profitability can be affected by how successfully the work is undertaken. The buyer can enhance profits by acquiring suitable goods at competitive prices through sensible planning and careful purchasing.

To estimate the amount of merchandise needed, past and present sales records are examined and evaluated using merchandise inventories. Buyers study their market, confer with managers and sales clerks, and watch reports of general economic conditions to help with ordering merchandise. They must know the quality of the merchandise and the business standard of firms with whom they deal.

Typical responsibilities include, identifying and meeting suitable suppliers / manufacturers, negotiating prices, quantities and delivery time-scales, writing reports, financial administration, managing junior staff and liaising with other employees about sales performances.

Retail buyers work closely with advertising people to plan sales campaigns and window and floor displays. Depending on the size of the business they work for, buyers may work either independently or as part of a team. They have lots of contact with people, in person, over the phone or through the Internet. Buyers meet with people from their own business, such as marketing, finance and sales staff, and suppliers and wholesalers locally and overseas.

Promotional prospects are excellent – progression can be into senior buying roles or into related areas of employment such as marketing, store management or merchandising 

Key skills for retail buyers are commercial awareness,confidence, ability to cope with pressure, good team-working skills, interpersonal skills and effective organisational skills.

Personal Requirements

  • alert, with the ability to recognise and make use of favourable conditions
  • able to negotiate in a tactful, yet decisive manner
  • presentation and good communication skills
  • ability to make calculations
  • not be overly compliant or easily confused
  • interest in merchandising
  • planning, budgeting and time management skills
  • decision-making skills and leadership ability
  • pleasant, attractive and well-groomed
  • good judgement, with regard to what is good value for money

How to Enter

Schooling & School Subjects

National Senior Certificate (matric), or equivalent with a Diploma Pass
Compulsory Subjects: None
Recommended subjects: Business StudiesAccounting, Economics  

In addition, check the university admission requirements to see if you qualify for the programme you want to do.

What to Study

Degree: A Bachelor of Science (BSc) or a Bachelor or Commerce (BCom, BBusSc, with business and marketing subjects would be suitable.
Diploma: The N.Dip. Purchasing Management.


  • department stores
  • retail firms
  • self-employment, own retail business

Further Information

  • Any of the above mentioned universities of technology
  • Any chain / departmental store or retail firm

Getting Started

  • try to obtain vacation work in a retail store
  • make an appointment to speak to a retail buyer about this type of career.

Programmes by Study Institutions

Related Occupations

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