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What are Retail Buyers?

Diane Goettel
Updated May 17, 2024
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Retail buyers are professionals who are trained to purchase goods at a wholesale price to be sold in stores or online at a retail price. Depending on the size of the store that the buyer works for, he or she might be responsible for purchasing goods for the entire store, or just for one department. Small boutiques, for example, might only have one retail buyer on staff, or the owner might be responsible for all of the buying. Large department stores and retail chains, on the other hand, may have numerous retail buyers who oversee the purchasing of specific types of goods.

A ladies’ department store may employ over a dozen different buyers. Some would be responsible for footwear and lingerie while others would be responsible for professional attire and evening wear. Depending on the size of the store, there might also be buyers who purchase goods for departments that sell jewelry, coats and outerwear, cosmetics, sportswear, and fragrance. A sporting goods store, on the other hand, would have a completely different range of departments.

In order to purchase goods for their companies, retail buyers often attend semi-annual or quarterly trade shows where vendors display their wares and take orders from the buyers. These trade shows are often held in big cities and may even be hosted in a hotel where the buyers can rent rooms for a discounted rate. Each vendor usually displays a product assortment that is intended to interest a number of different buyers. Every year there are thousands of trade shows during which a very wide range of goods are displayed, everything from yachts to children’s toys, from hair products to gaming equipment.

Retail buyers are responsible not only for selecting goods that will sell well in their stores, but also for choosing the right quantities. These choices are usually made after studying the sales trends and sales history of the store or stores for which they work. In addition, studying the upcoming industry trends is also an important part of a buyer’s job.

In some cases, buyers will go directly to the vendor’s showroom or warehouse instead of buying from them at a trade show. This is a useful for buyers who are looking to purchase specialty or private label goods and need to spend time reviewing product specifications and detailed pricing information with the vendors. Also, there are some retail buyers who simply purchase overages from vendors in order to sell at discount chain stores.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Diane Goettel
By Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount Vernon, New York with her husband, Noah. They are the proud parents of a Doberman Pinscher named Spoon. Specialties: book editing, book marketing, book publishing, freelance writing, magazine publishing, magazine writing, copywriting,"
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Diane Goettel
Diane Goettel
"Diane Goettel has a BA from Sarah Lawrence College and an MA in English from Brooklyn College. Diane lives in Mount...
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