So when I graduated University I literally had no idea what I wanted to do. I mean, choosing what degree I wanted to do had been challenging enough but I always thought I had three years to think about what I wanted to do, right? But before I knew it I was in the position where graduation was approaching, and my parents were piling on the pressure of job applications and pretty much everyone I spoke to was asking ‘So what’s the plan now?’ (“YOU BLOODY TELL ME!”). Long gone were my long, four month summers. It was time to grow up.
Now don’t get me wrong, I didn’t give my future no thought at all – plenty of career options had floated into my head (teacher, accountant, lawyer) but none of them interested me enough for me to pursue. Having completed a Business Management degree I felt it was broad enough to allow me to have my choice of careers. This was both good and bad. Career doors remained open for me to choose from but I had no clue of which one I should walk through!
It was one evening when I was having a conversation with my Dad, that he said ‘what do you enjoy? What are you passionate about?’ and I replied Shopping. It was then that he suggested Retail and specifically a Buyer. To me this sounded brilliant – it incorporated everything I would look for in a job – travelling, market research and most importantly SHOPPING. What is not to love? I then applied for a Buying role and was lucky enough to get accepted.
I know this is the career for me, and I truly believe you can have a very rewarding, interesting and fun career as a buyer. Most buyers usually specialise in one part of the business, whether this be food, clothes, or general merchandise (Electrical items, home wear, toys, stationary etc.). Day to day I usually do the following:
· Manage stock levels (stock is paramount, if stock levels are too high we waste money, if stock is too low, we lose money and customers)
· Market Analysis – be trend aware and react to changes in demand. Know your customer base – this can be extremely fun when you get to shop all day on a competitor shop. What girl would not want to get paid to shop eh?!
· Meet with our suppliers, to build and maintain relationships, and negotiate contract terms.
· Work on our promotional activities, hand in hand with our marketing teams.
· Forecast our sales (particularly exciting when you have your own range – when you see sales are up 20% on the year, and that was down to you there is a massive sense of achievement; the numbers speak for themselves!)
· Work alongside our merchandising team, and designers to build our range by looking at emerging trends, past sales and strategy.
For me personally the best thing about being a buyer is reading the Monday trade figures for my range. When you have developed a product from start to finish, and now see it’s a best seller, the satisfaction is overwhelming. I am aware that sounds sad, but trust me it’s like no other!
Like I said – my degree was Business Management, and this definitely gave me the commercial awareness I needed for a career in Buying. But saying this, you can pretty much go into Buying with any degree, plenty of my colleagues have various degrees that are definitely not Business, Retail or Buying related! So don’t rule it out based on the fact that you have a Biochemistry degree!
I would say, if you are creative, analytical, have good communication skills, and can work under pressure you would make a good buyer. The life of a buyer in retail is extremely fast paced and isn’t for the faint-hearted. A lot of retail companies can be quite cut throat, but this is just the nature of the business, it’s important to be resilient and realise its business, nothing personal. If you’re passionate, and dedicated you will definitely succeed in the world of Retail.
With regards to your career path as a buyer; you usually become a Trainee Buyer, where you will be assisting the Assistant Buyer and Buyer in their day to day roles. You then progress with experience to Assistant Buyer, then Buyer, then Buying Manager. From there you can become a Senior Buyer, or Commercial Director. So there is definitely scope to earn plenty of dollar if you have the ambition and passion to succeed!