I often get asked how to get into fashion buying and what a fashion buyer actually does (I sometimes get asked both simultaneously which always gives me a little chuckle). I think this interest comes from the perception that being a buyer is glamorous, that it's a life filled with days of attending fashion shows, flicking through rails of clothes and travelling the world.
Whilst there's definitely an element of the more fabulous side of life (once you get to the higher levels) there's also a bit more to it than that. It's a ridiculously varied and pressured job role that keeps you on your toes at all times. One moment a buyer will be trend spotting at a festival with their designer and the next they'll be signing off their range to board of directors.
It's a super competitive field and it's definitely not for the faint-hearted but it's a great industry for those that really love fashion and have the right balance of skills.
Basically, fashion buyers are retail experts in sales analysis, future trends, customer knowledge, negotiating and planning. They predict what customers want years before they realise they want them. They are responsible for planning ranges that are profitable and commercially viable. They utilise sales data, trend analysis, knowledge of the market and the customer to create products that are competitive.
In addition to creating the initial objectives for their department, they analyse customers buying patterns, pricing structures and reactions to trends, ensure quality levels and plan ranges that fit into assigned budgets.
They liaise and communicate with each function of a business to ensure productivity and effective ways of working. They are the function that brings the others together to work together in unison, most notably the design, merchandising and garment technology departments.
On a day to day basis they keep their knowledge of trends up to date (this is where the shopping and catwalks comes in), review current sales, plan for future ranges, meet suppliers, present their ranges to management, visit stores, manage the critical path of their styles, attend fit sessions and manage their teams.
Buyers are highly organised, driven people with great communication skills and commercial acumen. They are often (but not always) the pivotal function in a companies product team, they're usually the team with ultimate responsibility for the success of a range.