Retail Buyer Apprenticeship

Retail Buyer Apprenticeship

As a retail buyer apprentice, you will help plan and choose a wide range of things for sale in retail stores. You must consider various factors such as customer demand, pricing, quality, and availability when purchasing. Market trends, shop rules, and financial budgets are other challenges.

Furthermore, you will buy new items and evaluate existing ones to guarantee that products remain competitive. If you correctly understand customer desires, you will maximise profits and provide a commercially viable assortment of things at a competitive price.


Throughout your apprenticeship, you may help:

  • analyse and forecast trends from consumer data
  • attend trade fairs to find new products
  • manage product quality
  • obtain and analyse customer feedback
  • negotiate prices, orders and delivery dates
  • present collections to senior managers
  • track sales figures, manage stock levels and keep to budgets
  • check and react to competitor activities
  • adapt quickly to meet changing consumer behaviour and trends.


  • Starting salaries for apprentice buyers are in the region of £18,000 to £25,000.
  • With experience you can expect salaries of £25,000 to £45,000.
  • Senior retail buyers earn between £45,000 and £70,000+.

Working hours

Working hours will routinely be extended from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. to achieve very tight deadlines, working on average 38 to 40 hours per week.

Travelling to trade exhibits or fashion shows may mean early starts or late finishes.

Working environment

You could work in an office or at a store.


Qualifications you can achieve as an apprentice retail buyer include:

  • Level 6 Assistant Buyer and MerchandiserEntry requirements for this level include 4 or 5 GCSEs at grades 9 to 4 (A* to C) and A levels, or equivalent, for a higher or degree apprenticeship. This qualification will take 24 months to complete.


On a retail buyer apprenticeship, you’ll learn:

  • the ability to work well with others
  • to be flexible and open to change
  • maths knowledge
  • to be thorough and pay attention to detail
  • customer service skills
  • the ability to sell products and services
  • persuading and negotiating skills
  • the ability to use your initiative
  • to be able to use a computer and the main software packages competently.


All retailers and manufacturers employ people that are responsible for buying. Typical employers include:

  • general discounters
  • high street department stores
  • home improvement stores
  • mail order companies
  • niche retailers
  • online sellers
  • specific product-led retailers, e.g. clothing, shoes, food and drink, sporting goods, electrical goods, furniture and furnishings
  • supermarkets
  • television shopping channels.

Professional development

There are training programmes available that allow direct entry to buying in a variety of retail industries, notably fashion.

Some large retailers provide comprehensive store management training programmes with the option of specialising in buying after completing the full programme. In this process, trainees may gain skills and experience in various retail areas before specialising. However, because competition for these programmes is intense, you must be motivated and knowledgeable in the industry.

Novice buyers learn by following more experienced staff members to trade shows and site visits or seeking new goods and contracts. The larger the company, the more systematic the training will be. In a smaller independent organisation, a trainee manager may be actively involved in buying as well as other areas of management such as marketing, pricing, and merchandising.

Many large organisations provide a systematic continuing professional development (CPD) programme, backed up by several in-house training options, to aid in developing any specialised skills that may be necessary. Additional options include professional and postgraduate degrees, such as an MBA or credentials from the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS).

Distance learning options, such as Bira’s Buying and Merchandising course, are also available (British Independent Retailers Association).

Career prospects

You’ll generally begin as a buyer’s assistant and advance to junior or trainee buyer, then senior buyer if you have enough experience. Each step forward often takes two or three years to complete.

Moving up to senior management is possible, particularly in larger retail organisations. The position of buying controller, for example, includes additional responsibilities, broader purchasing ranges, and larger budgets. Positions in product management, marketing, and merchandising are also available.

Lateral promotion may be a reasonable option for those who do not want increased responsibility but want variety. Another alternative is to establish your own business and open your own store.

Updated on December 31, 2022

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