The retail sector has a wide variety of opportunities within the fashion industry. From an entry-level role in store behind the counter, to operations managers and buyers, all have an important role to play. The higher up the ladder you go though; your decisions may not just affect a sale in store but may affect an entire business.
Breaking in to more senior roles can be daunting for those in the retail sector, but what is it really like to be a buyer at the top level? To demystify the role and shed some light on what the job entails day to day, we spoke to a Senior Menswear Buyer at Ted Baker. Here’s what they had to say:
Tell us a little about what the role of a buyer at Ted Baker - what are your main responsibilities
The role is extremely varied and can include anything from product development with the design team, to working with the merchandising team to select product and agree store distribution. Cost negotiations on fabric and samples take up a lot of my time, as well as being reactive to trade and ensuring the right product is in stores, at the right time.
Describe a typical day in the office.
The office is fast-paced and extremely varied from day to day. We are working on multiple seasons at a time, trading one, buying another and developing a third. A typical day could start with reviewing the bestsellers and figures from the previous week. This can help when reviewing the upcoming season buys, which are based on the current sales. Then we might have a meeting with suppliers, negotiating costs, or a presentation to other departments, such as wholesale, visual merchandising, e-commerce and the press team to go through a new range.
What is the work environment like for employees?
Ted Baker head office is a bustling open plan space. It is always buzzing with creativity and ideas, which makes for a refreshing environment to work in. We have the privilege of some amazing work spaces and meeting areas, for you to go on your own to compose your thoughts or to meet with colleagues. It’s all very interactive and engaging.
What key attributes make for a good buyer?
To be a successful buyer you have to be a great communicator. Your job is to get the best deal for your company so you have to be assertive and a good negotiator. You should always have your eyes open for new opportunities and a keen eye for detail is vital. Most importantly you have to remember that all of your decisions should be informed with the commercial aspects of the business in mind.
Is there any on-going formal learning required for the role?
A lot of ‘buying’ is learned as part of on the job training, however, dependent on what company you work for and what product area you work on, there may be more formal training. For example, I started on a graduate scheme which included a lot of additional training, such as negotiating skills, workshops and fabric workshops.
What are the most rewarding parts of the job?
Seeing products, you developed, in stores and on customers. It is always rewarding to see a coat that you worked on from just a drawing and fabric swatches, to keeping someone warm and stylish on the street!
What are the most challenging parts of the job?
The main objectives of the role, is to buy the right product for the right time, at the right quality and price. With outerwear, it is always important to be aware of the trends and the weather. When the weather is unusually warm, people will not shop for coats and the second it turns we have to make sure there are enough options to choose from.
How do you buy for international markets?
To deliver the optimum international range we have several things to consider that differ from the usual UK retailing. Trends, customers shopping habits and cultures change considerably across regions which we need to be aware of. To ensure we are meeting these customer demands, we have a dedicated international team based in Ted Baker HQ that gathers data from stores and feeds back to teams on product risks, opportunities and general changes to buying habits. That way we’re always up to date on what works and we can adapt to the ever-changing market.
How do you keep in line with both trends and the heritage Ted Baker identity?
With trends emerging and evolving so fast, the most effective way I keep abreast is through dedicated fashion sites online. Social media has also become enormously impactful and important to how we work. It’s our job at Ted Baker HQ to ensure new trends filter down and are delivered in a commercial way to our customers while maintaining that Ted Baker handwriting
What advice would you give to someone who is interested in following a similar career path?
One thing you will need is real passion for product and for the industry. Find an area that you really enjoy and are interested in and make it your expertise. I chose to focus on outerwear, because I loved the options.