The Pros and Cons of a Merchandise Buyer Career
Merchandise buyers buy products and negotiate prices for businesses, institutions and other organizations. Keep reading to learn more about the pros and cons of a merchandise buyer career so you can make an informed career decision.
|Pros of a Merchandise Buyer Career|
|Excellent pay (mean annual wage between $58,000 and $60,000)*|
|Excellent job benefits (health insurance, retirement plan, paid vacation)**|
|Can work independently with little supervision**|
|Some jobs don't require a college degree*|
|Cons of a Merchandise Buyer Career|
|Slower-than-average job growth (4% increase projected between 2012 and 2022 for all purchasing managers, buyers, and purchasing agents)*|
|Must deal with conflict situations**|
|Pressure to meet strict deadlines**|
|Errors can harm consumers**|
Sources: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, **iseek.org.
Merchandise buyers purchase products for businesses, institutions and other organizations. They negotiate prices, contracts and delivery schedules. They select products and monitor trends to try and anticipate the type of merchandise customers will buy. Merchandise buyers also monitor contracts to ensure vendor compliance and determine whether any changes are needed.
Salary and Career Outlook
A merchandise buyer's salary depends on his or her level of education, amount of experience and the job location. The type of products being purchased affects the salary as well. For example, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), a merchandise buyer who dealt in nonagricultural wholesale and retail goods earned a mean annual wage of $58,000 in 2014, while a buyer who worked in the farm products field earned a mean annual wage of $60,000.
In addition to their salaries, some merchandise buyers earn commissions, and some receive bonuses. Employee discounts can be another perk. The career outlook for merchandise buyers is poor; the BLS predicts growth in the field to be around 4% during the 2012-2022 decade.
Some employers accept a high school diploma and offer on-the-job training for merchandise buyers. Other employers prefer applicants with associate's or a bachelor's degrees. A degree in purchasing includes courses in accounting, marketing, economics, procurement and international business. Employers also look for candidates with degrees in economics, business, accounting or another relevant field.
Computer skills are a must for employment as a merchandise buyer. Other skills needed to perform the job include:
- Complex problem solving
- Establishing interpersonal relationships
- Influencing others
- Obtaining information
Job Postings by Real Employers
Many employers look for merchandise buyers with a bachelor's degree, but some don't require college if the candidate has purchasing experience. The following are actual job postings for merchandise buyers that were advertised in April 2012.
- A home improvement company in Indiana is looking for a merchandise buyer to select and buy products, recommend new merchandise, foster relationships with vendors and negotiate prices and delivery schedules. Other duties include managing inventory, creating advertisements, identifying trends and traveling to different store locations. Proficiency in math and computer skills is required along with at least two years of purchasing experience.
- A retail establishment in Massachusetts seeks an assistant merchandise buyer to support the buyers by learning the procedures for selecting merchandise, negotiating prices and marketing products. Some travel will be required. A bachelor's degree in marketing, retail or a related field is desired. Candidate must be proficient in math and computer skills.
- A Missouri consumer products firm wants to hire a merchandise buyer with a bachelor's degree in business or an associated discipline to purchase raw materials and finished goods. Duties will include negotiating prices, handling supplier requests for price increases and interacting with the marketing and manufacturing departments. Proficiency in the Microsoft Office suite and at least three years of purchasing experience are required.
How to Gain an Edge in the Field
Since some employers accept candidates with a high school diploma, a bachelor's degree will put you ahead of the competition. Completion of business or accounting courses will make you more valuable to employers. Membership in a professional organization, such as the American Purchasing Society or the Association for Operations Management, will provide benefits that can aid in your career development. These benefits include:
- Periodicals for members only
- Membership discounts on products
- Educational resources (seminars and training)
- Networking opportunities
- Access to job postings
- Professional certification
Obtaining certification through a professional organization will give you that edge to help you advance in a merchandise buyer career. Certification provides proof of your professionalism and can translate into higher pay.
Alternate Career Paths
If you plan to get a college degree in the supply field, and would like to earn higher pay, you may want to look into a logistician career. Logisticians use computers to track all activities required to obtain supplies, including inventory, transportation, purchasing and delivery. Like merchandise buyers, they foster interpersonal relationships with vendors and look for ways to improve the process and lower costs.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, logisticians in 2011 received a mean annual wage of $75,000. The career outlook is much better than it is for merchandise buyers, with logistician jobs projected to increase by 26% between 2010 and 2020, which is higher than average.
Manufacturing Sales Representative
Manufacturing sales representatives meet with customers at businesses, government agencies and other organizations to learn what kind of products the organizations need. These representatives show their clients products that the organization can use and negotiate prices, delivery schedules and contracts. A high school diploma is typically all that is needed to obtain a manufacturing sales representative job unless it is in a technical field.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, manufacturing sales representatives in the nontechnical sector earned a mean annual wage of $64,000 in 2011, while representatives working in technical industries earned a mean annual wage of $86,000. Job prospects for manufacturing sales representatives are fair, with job growth projected at 16% between 2010 and 2020, which is average.