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Model at a Nordstrom Fashion Show
|Names||Buyer, fashion merchandiser|
|Competencies||Analytical skills, Creativity, Enthusiasm, Judgment, Flexibility (personality)|
In the retail industry, a buyer is an individual who selects what items will be stocked. Buyers usually work closely with designers and their designated sales salsa and attend trade fairs, wholesale showrooms and fashion shows to observe trends. They may work for large department stores, chain stores or smaller boutiques. For smaller independent stores, a buyer may participate in sales as well as promotion, whereas in a major fashion store there may be different levels of seniority such as trainee buyers, assistant buyers, senior buyers and buying managers, and buying directors. Decisions about what to stock can greatly affect fashion businesses.
According to "The Role of the Fashion Buyer," buyers typically specialize in one type of merchandise such as women's dresses. However, in a smaller retailer, a buyer may buy for a larger, less specialized range such as women's casualwear which may include shirts, skirts, pants, and jackets. The larger the retailer, the more specific the product area is for a buyer. Large companies that have a broad range of products will often have separate buying departments for menswear, womenswear, and childrenswear. A buyer at a smaller retailer may buy name brand products while a large company buyer may have the opportunity to be involved in the design and development of the products. A buyer with experience will travel to learn new fashion trends and to visit clothing suppliers.
Assistant buyers play a smaller role in the selection of merchandise since they are still gaining experience. They may help senior buyers with basic aspects of retailing. Assistant buyers may also be in charge of orders and shipments, supervise sales personnel, keeping records, and dealing with customers who are returning or exchanging merchandise.
Buyers work alongside their buyer colleagues because they receive helpful advice from one another. A buyer can have frequent meetings with the buying manager to discuss the development of the range of garments. Buyers also interact often with the merchandising, design, quality control, and fabric technology departments. A buyer will meet with the finance, marketing, and retail sales personnel on a less frequent basis.
Some buyers meet regularly to update each other about price ranges as well as to receive or give advice. Buyers will often travel together so that they can advise one another on ranges and to coordinate ranges. For instance, a buyer for women's jackets will coordinate with the buyer for women's blouses since the two garments are frequently worn and purchased together.
"The Role of the Fashion Buyer" states that one part of a buyer's job is to negotiate prices and details of delivery with the supplier. Since this is an important aspect of a buyer's job, some retailers provide their buyers with negotiation training courses. When the buyer meets with the supplier, the sales executive of the garment manufacturer will submit a "cost price" for a garment. Then the buyer calculates the price that the garment will need to be sold for in order to reach the retailer's mark-up price. The markup price is the difference between the selling price and the manufacturer's cost price. The retail selling price is typically 2.5 or 3 times the price of the manufacturer's cost price. While it may seem like a retailer is making a large profit from this markup, the proceeds are used to cover many costs such as the buyer's salary, store rent, utility bills, and office costs. The markup must be high enough to cover the retailer's expense of "housing" a garment on a rack or a shelf for anywhere from a few days to an entire season, plus the risk that some garments will inevitably have to be marked down to cost to get them out of the store.
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