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An overview of Buying & Merchandising

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Check out our guide to the sector and the opportunities available for bright and ambitious graduates in this fast-moving and insight-led sector.

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What is Buying & Merchandising?

Buying is one of the most important roles in the retail and consumer sector. It is the buyers who decide what products the company is going to sell, and from where it is going to be sourced. Whether a supermarket stocks mangos from Brazil, or beef from Japan, it will be the buyers who made the decision.

Merchandisers will decide how the products will be displayed and packaged. Increasingly that means looking at how the products will be displayed in shops, online or in apps, as well as deciding where to allocate stock around the network. 

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You'll get lots of responsibility

A job in buying and merchandising brings with it lot of responsibility: if a buyer misjudges the demand for products, or overestimates, then it could hit a company's bottom line instantly, and damage the brand long term. The profit margin can also rely heavily on the buyer's ability to drive negotiations with suppliers. 

You'll therefore need good commercial instincts, a thorough understanding of the sector within which you work and an ability to respond quickly when things don't go to plan.

What type of graduate would be interested in a role like this?

First and foremost this role suits a graduate with commercial empathy. Buyers work very closely with marketers to discuss pricing, customer needs, trends and strategy so it is vital the graduate naturally puts themselves in the customer'­s shoes.

It also suits a natural trend setter as buyers sometimes have to remain months ahead of the consumer and know what future fashions will be. 

The ability to draw conclusions from data and make decisions is critical too. Buyers will constantly review sales data and see what products are selling well and what are not, in order to decide what to buy in the future.

The role can therefore be quite data heavy, but there is definitely a thrill when you decide that Zara should increase their range of red coats for the winter, and you see your results walking around in real life.

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