06 July, 2022 | Posted by Colm McDonnell

What is the Difference Between a Fashion Buyer and a Fashion Merchandiser?

In the fashion industry, the terms fashion buyer and fashion merchandiser are used quite often and sometimes alongside each other. If you had no prior experience working in fashion, you might think they are the same role, just with different names. This, however, is not the case.

Let’s explore what exactly goes into being a fashion buyer and fashion merchandiser, and what sets them apart from each other.

Fashion Buyer

While it is certainly an attractive prospect to travel the world, selecting the latest pieces of high fashion, there is a lot of work that goes into being a fashion buyer.

Crucial to a fashion buyer’s job is not just keeping up with the latest trends but forecasting upcoming ones in order to give their employer the edge when buying the latest pieces.

Fashion buyers need to have extensive knowledge of each brand and the cost of doing business with them.

In the past, you might spot a trending piece of clothing at a trade show, but now you have to be keeping an eye on designers, big and small, across social media sites such as Instagram to see what the general public is looking for.

Fashion buying can go beyond buying complete pieces too. Buyers can work on behalf of brands as well as retailers.

When working for the former, a fashion buyer can be responsible for the sourcing of fabric and materials in order to create the designs the brand wants to create.

This is extremely important in determining how much a piece will cost to produce and thus how much a consumer will pay for it.

While fashion knowledge is of paramount importance to fashion buyers, they must also be business savvy, as the title might suggest.

Creating budgets and adhering to them is crucial to how a retailer or brand does its business. Buyers will always have to justify, from a financial point of view, why they think a designer, brand or certain trend is worth it to their employer.

Fashion Merchandiser

Fashion merchandising encompasses a lot of the same principles that fashion buying does. And there is overlap between the two careers.

Merchandisers, similar to buyers, need to be able to see trends coming before they happen and plan their business strategy accordingly.

Combining their fashion knowledge with their business acumen, merchandisers must be able to evaluate trends and create a plan for how their business will react to those trends.

Developing relationships with brands is one of the top priorities of a fashion merchandiser. While the fashion industry is big and ever-expanding, it is important for a merchandiser to develop strong connections with brands both big and small.

Therefore, you must have strong interpersonal communication skills to be successful as a merchandiser.

One distinctive responsibility a merchandiser has is the marketing and promotion side of things. Once the clothes have been bought and displayed online and in-store, the merchandiser then is responsible for the promotion of the new pieces, be it on social media, TV, and radio advertising, or on-street marketing also.

Merchandisers also collaborate with a much broader range of personnel within the fashion industry.

On any given day, they can interact with buyers, fabric sellers, and marketing agents, all the way to on the floor retail staff.

What is the difference?

You might be thinking about what the actual difference between these two titles is. The truth is there are definitely a lot of crossovers between the two.

They both have to analyse and capitalise on trends within the industry to deliver the most up-to-date fashion to their customers.

They both have to be business savvy and know how to operate within a budget.

What sets them apart is that merchandising takes on a broader range of responsibilities across the fashion industry. As Fashion United put it, ‘buying is a specialisation in the merchandising field’.

In other words, buyers work closely with merchandisers to deliver a trending and desirable collection of pieces that will entice customers to buy from their brand or retail outlet.

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