What Qualities Make a Great Buyer?

by Steve Pruitt

Q: We need to hire a new menswear buyer, but I’m not exactly sure what qualities we should be looking for in potential employees. As a merchandising analyst, what advice can you give me on what makes a great buyer?

StevePruitt-FEATUREDSteve Pruitt: Many people think of buying as a creative job — and it is to an extent — but great buyers also have to have broad analytical skills. This is because in addition to knowing fashion and trends, they need to know how to stay on budget, how to select a mix that is well-suited for their customer base (in terms of income, age and style), and how to select a good balance of price points and looks.

They also need to be good at negotiating with vendors, tracking their on-orders, and working with your merchandise planner to make sure that they are buying enough to spur sales, but not so much that you could wind up with too much inventory at the end of the season.

I know this sounds like a lot of skills to find in one person, but this is truly what the job requires. My suggestion to you is that you find an experienced buyer who knows your market and the clientele of your store. Walk-through each of the points I made and see if there are any holes in their knowledge. Maybe you can fill them together as a team.