Buying clothes for a living seems like the dream job – what’s it really like?
Read our Q&A with Paul, Menswear Lifestyle and Casual Branded Buyer at House of Fraser.
How did you get into this role?
I’ve always had an interest in fashion, but didn’t know I wanted to be a Buyer when I was younger. I originally thought I wanted to be a stylist, visual merchandiser or work in marketing.
I went on to study fashion merchandising at university which taught us about the buying office, that’s when the interest was really sparked – especially after spending a year in the House of Fraser Buying Office on placement.
Describe your average day:
As much as I hate to say it and as cliché as it sounds, every day is different, and it depends on the time of the year. Mondays always tend to be meeting based; we discuss last week’s performance, best sellers, worst sellers and trading opportunities – both in store and online.
In the two buying seasons I spend a lot of my time abroad at the various trade shows or in the showrooms here in London, this is when we do the hard work like negotiating the budgets, deals and of course selecting the range.
Outside of the buying seasons my team and I spend a lot of time visiting our brand partners, discussing strategy and of course visiting the stores across the country – it’s important we know our customer and the towns in which they live.
Biggest challenges in this role:
Guessing the British weather. We select and book the product well in advance of the season delivering in store, so there’s always that concern of “have I bought enough quilted coats” if it’s really cold and “have I bought enough shorts” if we continue to have these hot summers? Selling out of a product is better than being left with a lot but it always makes you question what could have been and what you could have sold – it can be frustrating.
Advice for a student or graduate wanting to do this job
Work experience is key, OK, you might not get paid but it’s one thing that really stands out when I look at CV’s; it shows willing and a desire to learn about the role – you also make valuable contacts.
Two personal traits you need for this job:
Thick skin (it’s business, you can’t take things personally), organisational skills (you are normally working on three seasons at any one point) and endless energy…OK that’s three.
I still get a buzz seeing people pick up, admire and ultimately purchase the product that I’ve selected or in some cases developed and designed. It makes all those early mornings, long trips and working over the weekend worth while. Coming in on a Monday and discovering your department has performed much better than you thought it would, that’s a good feeling too, more relief than anything.
Being ill on a trade show trip. Being in Berlin for three days when you should really be in bed back home isn’t too fun, especially when you have back to back meetings in your diary and people are expecting to see you and of course “talk business”.
There is an element of travel with the job, whether it be going to the trade shows or showrooms abroad, I’ve visited some brilliant cities, cities I probably wouldn’t have done so on holiday, so that’s pretty fun. There’s also the odd dinner and party but they don’t happen quite as frequently as people expect.