The Job and What's Involved

As a buyer, you would be responsible for buying in the goods that your company sells, or the equipment and parts that your company uses to manufacture goods.

Your duties would include:

  • Choosing products.
  • Negotiating prices with suppliers.
  • Making sure that goods arrive on time and suppliers are paid.
  • Presenting new ideas to senior managers.
  • Analysing sales figures and forecasting future sales.
  • Writing reports.
  • Recording and monitoring stock levels.
  • Researching new products and suppliers, for example by checking catalogues or attending trade fairs.

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.

You would typically work standard office hours, Monday to Friday, with some possible overtime to meet deadlines when necessary. Part-time work may be available.

You would be office-based, but would also travel widely to meet suppliers and attend trade fairs.

Buying administrative assistants or assistant buyers may earn anywhere between £12,000 and £20,000 a year. Experienced buyers can typically earn between £22,000 and £40,000 a year.

Senior buyers and purchasing managers can earn £50,000 a year or more.

Getting Started with this Career Choice

As well as in the retail industry where buyers are employed, there are also opportunities in the manufacturing and service industries.

Jobs may be advertised in the local and national press, trade magazines for your particular industry, and specialist recruitment agencies.

Education and Training

You may have an advantage with a BTEC HNC/HND or degree in supply chain management, logistics or business studies, although you don't always need a degree or HND 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 don't have a CIPS-approved degree in supply chain management, you can study for CIPS professional qualifications whilst working in a buying department.

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 beyond as you gain experience and CIPS qualifications.

See the CIPS website for details of the undergraduate and postgraduate degrees that they approve, and for more information about CIPS qualifications and membership.

A Few More Exams You Might Need

You would be trained on the job, possibly through a company's structured graduate training scheme. You will also normally study for 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, or you could study for CIPS qualifications including:

- Level 3 Certificate in Purchasing and Supply
- Level 4 Diploma in Purchasing and Supply
- Level 5 Advanced Diploma in Purchasing and Supply
- Level 6 Graduate Diploma, a degree-level qualification

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.

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Skills and Personal Qualities Needed

A buyer needs:

  • Good spoken and written communication skills.
  • Good mathematical skills, for working 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.

Your Long Term Prospects

Larger companies may have good promotion prospects.

With experience, you could alternatively move into related areas such as merchandising, sales, marketing or management.

Get Further Information

Chartered Institute of Purchasing and Supply (CIPS), Easton House,
Church Street, Easton on the Hill, Stamford, Lincolnshire PE9 3NZ
Tel: 01780 756777

Skills for Logistics,
14 Warren Yard, Warren Farm Office Village,
Stratford Road, Milton Keynes MK12 5NW
Tel: 01908 313360

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