If you live in the Southeast, you know about Belk. If you don't live there, maybe you were introduced to their Modern.Southern.Style when they partnered with Project Runway. And if you've never heard of this family-owned Department Store, just know it's where I started my journey as an Assistant Buyer (the entry point to this career path for most Buyers).
Many people are curious about how to become a Buyer. I like to consider buying an apprenticeship field because you learn almost everything you need to know about the job and career from managers and mentors you encounter along the way. So, starting with an internship in a buying office will teach you about the office and team structure, the buying process and other aspects of the job like managing an Open-to-Buy (the balance sheet we use to run our business).
Keep in mind every company is different and titles sometimes vary, but generally speaking - those of us who choose merchandising (the industry term for the buying function in retail, that also refers to site merchandising at e-commerce companies or visual merchandising in stores) start out our career in one of the following ways:
in stores providing context for customer experience and in-store operations
internships that pay little to nothing
job offers after school in very selective Executive Training (ET) Programs at companies like Macy's Bloomingdale's, Target and TJX
or as a merchandise assistant, where you can work through the assistant and associate levels to Buyer, which can be challenging, but I have seen girls do it with hard work and the right mentor-ship
So if you aspire to be a buyer and are on one or none of these paths, don't worry - there's hope! The sooner you can create any of these experiences, the better, because exposure to these roles will reveal what this career is and is not.
This career is about running a business, being opportunistic, understanding processes, understanding your consumer, managing a P&L, driving profitability, making smart bets, managing relationships, negotiating, advertising, and marketing... a lot of marketing!
This career is not about picking out clothes, going to fashion shows (all the time) or constantly working with celebrities, models and designers. I've been blessed to do all of these things throughout my career, but my day to day life is mostly about inventory management, excel spreadsheets and SQL. The role is broad, and continuing to change.
Keep reading to hear more about my industry experience in Charlotte, then Houston and more recently Seattle!! I will also have friends post about their experiences working at TJ Maxx, Macy's and Elle Magazine!