Buying Career Advice
If you are wondering how to become a buyer, below are tips and advice on training for and beginning careers within sales and retail, as well as job prospects in the UK.
The Job Description
As a buyer you would be responsible for buying in the goods that your company sells, or the equipment and parts that your company needs to manufacture goods.
Your duties would include:
assessing bids from suppliers
finding suppliers and negotiating prices
making sure goods arrive on time and suppliers are paid
presenting new ideas to senior management teams
writing reports and helping to interpret sales forecasts
recording and monitoring stock levels and analysing sales
checking catalogues or attending trade fairs and demonstrations to research new products and suppliers.
In certain industries you would use specialist skills, for example in retail you would work closely with merchandisers to analyse consumer buying patterns. As a fashion buyer, you might advise design teams about trends when new ranges are planned.
The key personal attributes of good buyers include:
good spoken and written communication skills
good mathematical skills, to work with figures and budgets
the ability to analyse and assess information
good organisational skills
accuracy and attention to detail
negotiating and networking skills
good business sense
the ability to work well as part of a team
the ability to work under pressure and meet deadlines.
How to become a buyer
To become a buyer you will have an advantage with a BTEC HNC/HND or degree in supply chain management, logistics or business studies. You may not always need a degree if you have relevant experience in retail, merchandising or business.
For some jobs, employers may prefer you to have specialist qualifications and technical knowledge in your particular industry, for example:
an engineering degree for an engineering manufacturing company
a degree in fashion buying or design for a fashion buying job.
Most employers will expect you to have or be working towards membership of the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS). If you do not have an accredited degree in supply chain management, you can study for CIPS professional qualifications while you are working as a buyer or trainee buyer.
You may be able to join some large companies as a trainee buyer through a management training scheme. You will usually need a degree (in any subject) to get onto a training scheme, although some employers will recruit people with A levels or similar qualifications.
It is also possible to start as a purchasing administrator or assistant in a company's buying department. You could then work your way up to assistant or junior buyer and then buyer as you gain experience and CIPS qualifications.
Training and Development
You would be trained on the job, possibly through a structured graduate training scheme. You will also normally study for NVQs or professional qualifications from the Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS).
You could work towards NVQ levels 2, 3, 4 and 5 in Supply Chain Management
(previously known as Procurement), or you could study for CIPS qualifications
Level 3 Certificate in Purchasing and Supply
Level 4 Foundation Diploma in Purchasing and Supply
Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Purchasing and Supply
Level 6 Graduate Diploma, a degree-level qualification.
CIPS has also recently developed new Level 2 (introductory) and Level 7 (executive diploma) qualifications.
The Level 3 and 4 qualifications are suitable for purchasing administrators and people new to the industry. Most buyers aim to achieve the Level 6 Graduate Diploma.
You can study for CIPS qualifications part-time at local colleges and private training providers, or by distance learning.
The Pay (a rough guide)
Buying administrative assistants or assistant buyers may earn £12,000 to £20,000 a year.
Experienced buyers can earn from £15,000 to £35,000 a year.
Senior buyers and purchasing managers can earn £50,000 a year or more.
As well as the retail industry, there are many opportunities in the manufacturing and service industries. Many retail head offices are in London or the south east of England, but jobs are available all over the UK.
Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, and trade magazines for your particular industry, and specialist recruitment agencies.
Promotion prospects in larger companies are good. Small firms have more limited prospects, so you may have to change employers to progress. You could also move into related areas such as distribution and logistics, merchandising, sales, marketing or management.
Useful retail and sales resources:
Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS)
Easton on the Hill
Tel: 01780 756777