Companies would not be able to find the right suppliers, keep costs down and maximize profits without buyers. They determine cost structures for the merchandise that best fit their product lines, and then mark products up to earn targeted returns on investments. These professionals also obtain manufacturers codes for products so store clerks can easily track inventory levels. If you have analytical, math and negotiation skills, taking a job as a buyer may be a good career choice for you.
A buyer evaluates suppliers on prices, quality of products and average shipping times, and decides from which ones to make regular purchases. They also manage the bidding process, reviewing suppliers' price quotes and financial reports before negotiating contracts. As a buyer, you might also visit suppliers' plants or distribution centers to learn more about product varieties and the services they offer. You also attend trade shows and conferences to research new industry trends technologies. At times, buyers must meet with their staffs and vendors to review defective merchandise and arrange for returns and replacements.
Buyers maintain records of the products they purchase, including the names, styles and sizes of products, costs, delivery dates and conditions of products when they arrive. In this role, you also reduce prices to sell older inventory before new merchandise arrives. If you are a highly experienced buyer, you might also train new buyers in your company, teaching them various procedures and policies. You also train and supervise retail sales workers and clerical employees.
Most buyers work for retailers or wholesalers, while some work in manufacturing. In this field, you typically work weekdays, Monday to Friday, in comfortable, air-conditioned offices. Forty-hour workweeks are the norm but overtime might be necessary to complete important transactions or projects. You might also be required to travel to meet suppliers in their cities.
Education and Training
Educational requirements vary depending on where you work. A high school degree may be sufficient on some jobs, while you might need a bachelor's degree for other positions. Many employers have comprehensive training programs for buyer trainees, where they learn how to monitor inventory and negotiate prices with suppliers.
Salary and Job Outlook
Buyers earned average annual salaries of $56,810 as of May 2011, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. If you are among the top 10 percent in earnings, you could make over $90,740 per year. The top-paying states for buyers were Connecticut, New Jersey and New York -- $92,790, $69,210 and $66,540 per year, respectively. The BLS reported that jobs for buyers are expected to increase 7 percent between 2010 and 2020, which is half the rate of the 14 percent national average.