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!
Thanks,
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
Duties:
· 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
Skills:

· 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
Merchandiser
Merchandise Director

Title: Buyer
Duties:

· 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

Skills:
· 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
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!

ttyl,
Nicole

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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.

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    Take care.
    TJM

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