You already love fashion as a hobby, how great would it be to make it a career? In the fashion industry, fashion buyers are at the top of the food chain. They help decide what’s in, who’s out, and what labels will be hanging in your closet next season. Being a buyer is a fun career that allows plenty of creativity, stability, and the ability to own your own business.
What Fashion Buyers Do
Buyers (sometimes also known as fashion merchandisers) are responsible for selecting the clothing that goes into a boutique or department store. A buyer's job includes meeting with sales reps and going to market (which is essentially a trade show for the fashion industry), viewing the designer collections up to 6 months ahead of season, and placing orders for merchandise. It is a buyers responsibility to make sure their store or department has enough merchandise, is up to date on trends, and that the breadth of merchandise reflects the store and is in step with the taste of the clientele. Buyers are also responsible for handling relationships with vendors and sales reps, and some buyers also have the duty of planning and creating budgets as well.
Career Paths for Fashion Buyers
Generally, there are three different routes a buyer can take; first is working at a department store or large chain store. Generally in bigger stores, fashion buyers are assigned a category or department to buy for, and will usually have an assistant and a planner to work with. Buyers for smaller boutiques will often times cover a variety of categories, if not buying for the store as a whole, and will generally have to wear more hats. The third option for a buyers is to go off on their own and start their own boutique. Of course, in this situation the buyer will be wearing every hat, on top of their job as merchandiser.
Education for Fashion Buyers
A degree in fashion merchandising can be obtained at fashion schools around the US, as well as many universities and colleges. These courses focus almost entirely on buying for fashion boutiques and department stores. The types of degrees available start at an AA and go all the way up to a MA, however, some fashion schools (like the Fashion Institute of Design and Merchandising) offer one year professional designate programs in fashion merchandising for those who already have a degree in another field. Many buyers also choose to major in fields like fashion product development, which prepares students for multiple fields, including fashion merchandising, and those who decide to start their own business often look to broader studies in marketing, business or entrepreneurship.
How to Get Started
Interning is a way of life in the fashion industry. Although interning isn’t required to be a buyer, working with a seasoned buyer as a student it’s a great way to get a foot in the door and gain experience as student. After schooling is completed, aspiring buyers can apply for a position as an assistant buyer or can enter a buyer training program that many large department stores like Macy’s, Bloomingdales, or Saks Fifth Avenue offer. Although it is possible to major in fashion merchandising in college, keep in mind that most of these buyer training programs (and many job leads for buyers in general) are open to those who hold bachelor's degrees in any field.
How Much Do Fashion Buyers Earn?
Entry level assistant buyers can expect to hear around $30-$40k, depending on the market. Experienced associate buyers tend to earn $60k to $100k and beyond.
Being a fashion merchandiser isn’t always as glamorous as it seems, and business sense is just as important as fashion sense. But for those who have a passion for fashion, a good eye for trends, and great business skills, it’s ultimately a rewarding field.