When some people hear the word retail they tend to think 8-10 working hours a day and minimum wage, but there are actually other opportunities in the retail industry. Retail buyers are a significant part of the retail industry and are responsible for deciding which merchandise a company will purchase to sell in their stores.

They work for large corporate companies and small stores selecting specific products that will suit their customers and their stores. These products include clothing for fashion outlets like Edgars, furniture and crockery for stores like Mr Price Home and electronics for stores like Dion Wired. They play a huge role in the distribution of goods to customers and supervising company shipping and receiving departments. Retail buyer’s get the best deals for their stores so that they can offer good prices to their customers.

What do the tasks and duties of a buyer entail?

Buyers responsibilities consist of purchasing goods for resale to the public. They take into account current sales trends, supply chain and customers’ needs when determining what to purchase from suppliers and sell through their company. In other words, retail buyer’s buy products that they think their customers will buy. In some companies, travelling abroad is required to view and sample products in countries like China for example. This typically happens when you work for corporations, like Woolworths, Truworths or Edgars.

A significant part of a retail buyer’s duty is to negotiate and form business relationships with manufacturers and wholesalers. Negotiation means getting the best deal. Getting the best deal allows a company to offer a lower price to its customers and still make a profit. Buyers also monitor sales, inventory within the store, and must ensure the quality and value of the products their company sells.

Qualification requirements to become a Retail Buyer

The Course: Do you qualify?

The University of South Africa (UNISA) offers distance learning short courses in Retail Buying. The course focuses on the significance of a buyer’s role in the retail industry and the sourcing for retail organisations. The course takes 6 months to complete.

The admission requirements for a short course in Retail Buying are:

  • Senior Certificate or an equivalent NQF level 4 qualification.

  • Applicants without a senior certificate/matric can apply based on written proof of at least two years working experience in retail.

Damelin and INTEC college offers a 12 month part-time course in Retail Buying. The admission requirements are as follows:

  • Having an understanding and the ability to read, analyse and reflect on study material at least on NQF Level 3/ Grade 11 or equivalent.

  • The applicant also requires the knowledge, comprehension and application of language at NQF Level 3/Grade 11 or equivalent.

  • Basic knowledge, comprehension and application of Mathematics at NQF Level 2/Grade 10 or equivalent.

The University of Johannesburg also offers a 3 year Diploma in Retail Business Management. The admission requirements include:

  • An Admission Point Score (APS) of 24 points with Mathematics or 26 with Mathematical literacy is required to get admission.

  • A language of teaching and learning: 50- 59 %

  • Other recognised languages 30-39%

  • Mathematics 40- 49%

  • Mathematical literacy 60- 69%

  • Two other subjects 40- 49%

  • Remaining subject 40- 49 %

How much does it cost?

The Retail programs at UNISA vary and have different costs per course

  • Course in Introduction to Retailing is R1 150 per module and R2 300 total cost of the programme.

  • Course in Retail Buying (71692) is R1 300 per module and R2 600 total cost of the programme.

  • Course in Retail Marketing and Merchandising is R1 250 per module and R2 500 total cost of the programme.

  • Programme in Retail Management is R1 250 per module and R6 250 total cost the programme.

INTEC college offers a Retail Buying Certificate course for R 5,837 for 12 months. Online applicant’s fee is R5, 253 for the course, meaning you save (10%) R583 by applying online.

The University of Johannesburg’s Diploma in Retail Management costs ± R27 000 per year and the study material costs is ± R4 000.

Are there learnerships available in the industry?

Retail companies such as Truworths and the Edcon Group offer 12 month learnership programmes to internal and external applicants. These learnerships are offered annually for successful applicants to gain work experience and grow within the retail industry.

Truworths Learnership (2017- 2018) requirements

This learnership programme is also open to external applicants. The requirements are as follows:

  • Candidates must have a Senior Certificate or an equivalent NQF level 4 qualification.

  • Have proof of at least one year retail work experience.

  • Candidates must include a detailed CV with contact details.

  • Contactable references, as well as any information they feel, may be important their application

  • They must include certified copies of all relevant certificates and ID.

  • Candidates must be permanent South African citizens.

Edcon Learnership (2017 – 2018) requirements

The Edcon Group offers two types of learnership programmes; A Retail Manager learnership that is only available to Edcon staff and A Retail Buyer learnership that is open to external applicants. The requirements are as follows:

  • Candidates must have an NQF Level 6/ Diploma and Advanced Certificate in Retail Buying.

  • Candidates must be South African citizens

  • Candidates must be able to work well in a team and independently

  • Applicants must have a keen interest in the fashion and retail industry

Is this the right job for you?

Every job requires certain personal traits, interests and skills. Being a retail buyer requires a self-driven individual. A buyer needs to understand what persuades customers to buy a certain product and learn what customers want, so you need to be intuitive and understand the market. If you are an individual who is interested in figuring out market trends, analysing information and customer preferences, then being a retail buyer is the perfect career path for you.

Retail buyers are always working with manufacturers and wholesalers, so you need to have excellent negotiation skills and be able to form relationships with influential people in the industry. As a buyer, you will have frequent interaction with stock staff, managers and sales associates to hear their input on what customers find appealing in the products you provide. Great communication skills are therefore essential. Wallflowers should not consider pursuing this career. Buyers will be purchasing merchandise months in advance before the product hits the stores, so you need to be aware of future trends, understand sales data and know what is happening in the industry you work in.

What salary do Retail Buyer’s earn?

Retail Buyers’’ salaries vary according to the type of field they are in and the kinds of merchandise they purchase for companies. According to Payscale SA, the average salary for a Retail Buyer in South Africa is R288, 395 per year, which amounts to (R23,000-R25,000) monthly, however, this depends on years of work experience and qualifications in the field.

What is the ladder and how long does it take to become a buyer?

It is essential to have a certificate in Retail Buying in order to become a buyer. Having a formal education is an advantage in the retail industry. Larger companies and well-known brands are more likely to favour you when you have a diploma or any form of qualification in the field. However, another way is starting at the bottom as an entry-level sales associate. You can work your way up and gain more experience in retail by applying for learnership programmes inside the company.