Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Ask Nicole: Buying vs Merchandising...What's the difference?

Dear Nicole,
I am interested in pursuing a career in retail after I graduate from college. While researching for jobs, I noticed that some postings seem to use "buyer" and "merchandiser" interchangeably. Is a buyer and a merchandiser the same thing? Any advice you can share would be greatly appreciated!
Celeste, NYC

Dear Celeste,

I can completely understand your confusion. It wasn't until I became an assistant buyer that I truly learned the difference between buying and merchandising. In a nutshell, merchandisers work on the wholesale side and buyers work on the retail side. Let me give you the breakdown:

Title: Merchandiser
· oversee research, planning, and development of product at the wholesale level
· establish product direction and composition
· collaborate closely with design, production, and sales teams
· track and analyze market trends and forecasts
· understand customer preference (what the buyers want)
· study past sales and interpret data for new product direction
· work with product development on pre- and post-production processes

· grasp of marketplace and sales history
· understanding of garment construction, costing, and fabric sourcing
· customer awareness
· research skills
· analytical skills
· teamwork skills
Career Path:
Assistant Merchandiser
Associate Merchandiser
Merchandise Director

Title: Buyer

· responsible for the purchasing of apparel and accessories from manufacturers or wholesalers for retail sale to consumers
· negotiate prices with wholesalers/vendors and place purchase orders
· develop and maintain vendor relationships
· plan delivery and shipment schedules
· collaborate with planning, merchandising, and sales teams
· study trends and shop competition
· monitor quality control

· analytical thinking
· great retail math skills
· strong negotiating skills
· budgeting and planning skills
· insight into trends
· excellent organizational and follow-up capabilities

Career Path:
Assistant Buyer
Associate Buyer
Divisional Merchandise Manager (DMM)

I hope this helps you to better understand these two career paths. If you see yourself being more involved in the design and product development process, I would suggest pursuing a career in merchandising. If you are more analytical and enjoy crunching numbers, I'd suggest buying. Either way, I'm sure you'll have a great start to your retail career!



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  5. Nicole Marie,

    First, what a great blog! I really admire your philosophy about building a satisfying career, and I'm glad to hear it's led you to a role that you love!

    I'm writing to get your advice on evaluating two career opportunities in fashion/beauty. I'm lucky enough to have two offers on the table- one as a jewelry buyer for a mass online retailer, and the other a marketing role for a global beauty brand. The online retail position feels like a great fit, as I'd really like to work in accessories (shoes/handbags) - but it requires I relocate from NY to the west coast! The beauty role is based in NYC, which is ideal location-wise. I'd love your perspective on two things: 1) how do companies in NYC view experience as a buyer for an online store vs. traditional store and 2) do fashion retailers consider beauty experience relevant to fashion (since this is my long-term goal)?

    I'd welcome any additional advice you have on weighing these two options.

  6. Hi Nicole, great blog. The explanation about merchandiser vs. retailer help me understand my client's role in men fashion. I'd like to subscribe to your blog.

    Take care.

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