Work as a Fashion Buyer

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Working in the fashion industry is tough, but can be extremely rewarding, we hope you find our guide useful.

Our Key Findings can be summarised as:

1. Fashion buyers work with suppliers, including major manufacturers or small-scale designers, to build the perfect range of products for their employers.

2. They may also work with major high-street stores, sourcing the hottest designs from around the world and overseeing contract negotiations.

3. As well as a keen interest in the world of fashion, you will be expected to be business-savvy, numerically-literate and highly driven in order to make it as a buyer.

4. Though not essential, any kind of fashion-related degree is a good start, with a number of UK universities offering specialist courses in fashion buying and merchandising.

5. Work experience is essential, with most new buyers having racked up at least 12 months' worth of unpaid internships before really getting their foot in the door.

 

What Do Fashion Buyers Do?

Fashion buyers work with suppliers, including major manufacturers or small-scale designers, to build the perfect range of products for their employers. They may also work with major high-street stores, sourcing the hottest designs from around the world and overseeing contract negotiations.

However, it's not all watching catwalk shows and wining and dining designers, with the modern professional in a fashion buyer job also expected to be business-savvy, numerically-literate and highly driven.

Indeed, competition between buyers makes this a stressful business and certainly not one to go into if you’re just after a nine-to-five lifestyle, though most buyers thrive on the hectic nature of the industry and enjoy getting paid to pursue their passion for fashion.

Professional and Academic Requirements

Though not essential, any kind of fashion-related degree is a good start, with employers likely to want to see evidence of a knowledge of how the industry works rather than just an enthusiasm for all things clothes-related.

The Fashion Retail Academy in London (http://www.fashionretailacademy.ac.uk/index.php) is highly-respected in the industry, with its graduates going on to hold key positions, both in the UK and overseas.

As well as short courses on merchandising and buying, it also offers longer courses for students over the age of 16 to develop the skills and experience needed to get ahead in the world of fashion.

At the same time, a number of UK universities offer full degree courses in fashion buying. Entry requirements and fees may vary, though all courses require four years full-time study (including one year of industry experience) or up to six years part-time study. Some of the degree courses on offer include:

  • University of Westminster: BA( Hons) Fashion Buying Management
  • University of the Arts, London: BA (Hons) Fashion Buying and Merchandising
  • DeMontford University: BA (Hons) Fashion Buying
  • Manchester Metropolitan University: BA (Hons) Fashion Buying and Merchandising
  • University of Huddersfield: BA (Hons) Fashion and Textile Buying Management

Additionally, big employers may also want to see evidence of a knowledge of the business world, so again, any relevant qualification can help a candidate stand out from the crowd.

But breaking into the highly-competitive world of fashion buying is not just about the paper qualifications.

Work experience is essential, with most new buyers having racked up at least 12 months' worth of unpaid internships before really getting their foot in the door. As such, it’s imperative you make the most of any placements you do get, whether through a study course or independently. Be sure to make a good impression and keep in close contact with any contacts you make.

Personal Attributes

Of course, it goes without saying, a love of fashion is essential for this line of work. Employers expect their buyers to always be on top, or preferably one step ahead of, the latest trends, so the best professionals eat, sleep and breathe fashion.

However, this alone is not enough. Fashion buyers also need to have good business heads, with negotiating with suppliers, securing contracts and building new working relationships just as important as a keen sense of enthusiasm. So, work on ‘soft skills’ such as communication in order to impress prospective employers.

Pay and Benefits

Pay for fashion buyers varies markedly, depending on experience and the size of employer. According to Fashion & Retail Personnel, entry-level buyers can earn from £16,000 to £20,000, with established assistant buyers taking home up to £28,000 and senior buyers as much as £60,000 a year.

Moreover, those in head of buying and buying director positions at major retailers can earn £100,000 or more, though such well-paid jobs are few and far between. 

Apart from the pay, most would-be-buyers are attracted to this line of work due to the fact it will allow them to make a living from their love of fashion.  

At best, top fashion buyers can live the good life, jetting off to fashion and trade shows around the world, wining and dining clients and schmoozing with big-name fashionistas all part of the day job.

While only a minority get to live the dream, fashion buyers at all levels nevertheless get to work in the industry they love on a daily basis, with added rewards including knowing about all the latest trends well before the general public and being able to bring a sense of individualism and creativity to a role.

Over time, a range of career opportunities could open up to you if you perform well, including senior positions at large department stores or fashion houses, while you may also want to enhance your flexibility and pay packet by going freelance.

Possible Drawbacks

As with all jobs in the fashion industry, landing a position as a buyer is tough, with competition fierce and employers expecting candidates to have significant amounts of - usually unpaid - experience before they are likely to offer them even a lowly-paid entry role.

Other possible drawbacks could include the need to constantly stay on top of the fashion game, with those who lose their enthusiasm even for a bit likely to suffer professionally.

Furthermore, though sometimes it can bring great joy, at other times, fashion buying can be stressful, particularly when a new range doesn't take off or if troubles with suppliers arise.

Finding Work

Most of the larger retail firms in the UK have their own in-house buyers, with the likes of the Arcadia Group, John Lewis and Marks and Spencer among the biggest employers.

Additionally, with the e-commerce world going from strength to strength, online retail firms such as Asus are also emerging as the best place to work in the industry, not least due to the fact that they are now working at the forefront of the industry and have the ability to be a bit more adventurous in their stock choices.

Always perform a job search on a site full of jobs like ours, then consider checking individual retailers’ websites, as well as searching for fashion buyer jobs on specialist focused fashion job sites such as Drapers Jobs.


Further Reading

The Fashion Retail Academy in London can be a good source of advice on getting into the fashion buying industry.

Another option for you maybe to find work in Fashion Merchandising or if you are good at writing then check out Fashion Journalism career guide.

Not convinced that fashion is for you? Then here on UK Jobs Guide see our adverts or there are lots of other career guides.

If you need to help from your local job centre then we have maps, addresses and phone numbers for you.


 
 
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