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Level 4 Fast Track Buying and Merchandising

Our Level 4 Fast Track Buying and Merchandising Diploma course has been designed for those looking to secure an entry-level buying or merchandising position in the shortest time possible. This course has been condensed to 22 weeks, studying two days a week to enable you to work part-time simultaneously if you wish. Buying and Merchandising departments are increasingly becoming more aligned and the two roles often overlap and collaborate, as a result. This course provides a broad foundation of knowledge for both areas. The goal of both the Buyer and the Merchandiser is to ensure that the right product is available to the right customer, at the right time.

The Buyer’s contribution to this relates to product development; they are responsible for researching current fashion trends and consumer behaviours, and selecting the garments which ultimately end up in stores. They work with many different departments to achieve this – from the Designers to the Marketers.

Meanwhile, a Merchandiser focuses on the commercial, financial and operational aspects of the business. It’s their job to manage stock flow, ensuring the right quantity of product is available in each store at any one time. They analyse past sales figures and work closely with Buyers to forecast buying patterns, measure performance, and plan distribution. They’re also responsible for fine-tuning collections to boost profits, and clearing lines during sale periods whilst maintaining profit.

Buying and Merchandising both require a diverse range of skills, from creative to analytical. This path is best suited to those who have a strong knowledge of fashion trends and patterns and who have a good head for numbers. Interest in and aptitude for data analysis is key, as are strong communication skills and an awareness of current industry developments.

To equip you for a career in Buying or Merchandising, this course covers a large number of topics. Our units include customer profiling and customer behaviour; essential in learning how to select the products most likely to maximise profits, whilst experience with garment technology and a knowledge of fabric become key for Buyers when working alongside designers to come up with initial concepts for clothing. Other important areas covered include costing and sourcing, critical path management and using trends to inform final commercial ranges.

This course is taught by our team of specialist tutors, all of whom have extensive experience in the industry. As a result, our Level 4 Fast Track Buying and Merchandising Diploma course has a reputation among employers for producing high quality graduates who are industry ready. 

Fashion Retail Buying and Merchandising Environment – This is a comprehensive introduction to Buying and Merchandising. We’ll cover how these roles operate in relation to each other, and how they change depending on different business environments. When it comes to Buying, you’ll explore how to create a range using your knowledge of customer behaviour and current trends. For Merchandising, we’ll delve into operational aspects of the role as well as supply chain management. 

Principles of Planning and Trading a Range – Creating a commercial range of garments that boosts profits for a brand is one of the key responsibilities of both Buyers and Merchandisers. To build a profitable collection, you'll need business, creative and research skills and to be involved in the design, production, quality and marketing processes.

Fashion Retail Buying Principles – There are a key set of guidelines you need to understand to achieve success as a Buyer. In this module, you’ll learn about the global market, fabric sourcing, the supply chain, and the set of parameters all Buyers you must work in – from ethical to political. You’ll cover how to source and manufacture from different regions including the pro’s and con’s as well as developing a supply chain and working relationship with factories.

Contextual Studies for Fashion Retail – Gain a deeper understanding of the fashion industry by exploring its history, as well as the cultural and environmental influences which impact it. In this unit, you'll develop your academic writing, research, and analytical skills. You will develop an understating of the social, cultural, economic trends alongside what is happening on the catwalks and trade show.

Individual Negotiated Fashion Retail Project – This unit is designed to fine-tune your creative and business skills through the creation and execution of an individual project. The aim is to create a viable business proposition, and on the way, you'll develop your presentation, research, and negotiation capabilities.

Preparation for Progression in Fashion Retail – This unit is designed to give you the best chance of pursuing a career in fashion retail buying and merchandising on graduation. We’ll cover how to identify relevant employment opportunities, as well as how to prepare for interviews. Our unique Progression Week offers CV-building workshops and masterclasses from the experts to let you know what major brands are looking for.

Buying and Merchandising roles require a diverse mix of skills, and so a typical day on the Level 4 Fast Track Buying and Merchandising Diploma course aims to incorporate a range of activities. Students might begin the day researching upcoming trends and visiting Oxford Street to make notes on what’s already in stores.

You will be invited to attend a range of masterclasses from some of retails biggest names. Previous speakers have included ASOS; Chloe Miles – Fashion Blogger; Zalando; FRA Alumni Sorcha Kelly, Junior Merchandiser - Accessories at NET-A-PORTER; TK Maxx & New Look. During these sessions held in our state of the art lecture theatre, fashion retail experts advise and inform about a range of subjects affecting the industry with an interactive Q&A session at the end to enable students to have their say.


Gain key contacts and real world experience to make your CV shine at a placement with a recognised high street brand. Your newly acquired knowledge will help you pursue your first buying or merchandising role with confidence. Work placements are full-time for 3 weeks, you will be expected to make your own travel arrangements. 

In the past, B&M students were asked to develop a new concept for Lipsy and design a 20 piece capsule collection, taking into consideration lead time and costings.

They also had to consider how they would promote and launch the collection. At the end of the project they presented their results to the Lipsy Senior Management Team and the winning students were offered work placement opportunities.

The course has an excellent track record of getting students into Junior Buying/Merchandising and related jobs including Sourcing and Supply Chain. Merchandisers are in huge demand and some students will find that they may have a natural aptitude for analysis and enter into Allocation or MAA roles.

On completion of this course the roles open to you include:

  • Buying Admin Assistant (BAA)
  • Merchandising Admin Assistant (MAA)
  • Allocator
  • Buyer’s Clerk
  • Sourcing & Supply Chain Assistant
  • Trend Research and Forecasting Agents

Awarding Body: University Arts London

Age Requirement: 19+

Start date: September

Course duration: 22 weeks, two days per week

Entry Criteria: 1 A-level (or the equivalent Level 3 qualification) and 5 GCSEs grade C/4 or above, including Maths and English. If you have any non-UK qualifications, please provide us with a NARIC Statement of Comparability, as well as, the IELTS test for English language (our entry requirement is 5.5 overall and in all sections) if you have not studied in the UK or English speaking country.

Offers: After completing our online form, your application will be processed and you will receive the outcome by post and e-mail within 5-10 working days. If we decide you would benefit from an interview, we will contact you with an invite. Your offer will be based on your predicted grades and is only secure after enrolment.

Fast Track course fees are £4220 per annum. For a full list of course fees please visit our Fees Page. Advanced Learning Loans are available for anyone aged 19 or over. 

Disclaimer on fees: Tuition fees are subject to change - the fees due are effective at enrolment.

Applications are processed in the order they are received and you may be required to attend an interview.

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Meet The Tutor

Meet The Tutor

Debbie Taylor, L4 Buying & Merchandising Tutor.

Debbie joined Selfridges as a graduate trainee where she spent 2 years working across all levels of head office before finding her true vocation in Fashion Buying. Over a career spanning 20 years she travelled the world in pursuit of new brands and concepts, working with some of the world’s most famous designers and attending the RTW shows. She has worked across Accessories, Ladies Contemporary and Designer and childrenswear. Her specialities are Brand Buying and Trend development. In 2000 she was awarded the Drapers Record Fashion Buyer of the year and in 2015 the FRA Teacher of the Year Award.



Joseph Groves, BAA at River Island, Graduated 2019.


"The Fashion Retail Academy gave me a great opportunity to explore both buying and merchandising, the placement allowed for great head office and social experience. The support from all the tutors in each class was incredible and the course was very easy to manage around a part time work schedule."



Lauren Smith, Wholesale Sales Executive at Radley and Co, Graduated 2019. 


"I’m very grateful for my course as it enabled me to transfer buying skills to wholesale from a selling point of view, and I meet buyers from brands regularly and help them plan for their season. I recently hosted my own appointments at a Trade Show in Birmingham! I’m very thankful to the FRA and how quickly the course enabled me to progress in my career."

Meet the Merchandiser

Meet the Merchandiser

Kellie Fulton, Merchandising Director, Links of London.


"As Merchandising Director every day is different. I look after three brands so I'm constantly having to change my brand hat. I lead a large team and love developing them and seeing them progress as we work together to meet the company' goals. I communicate with people around the world from UK to Athens, New York and Hong Kong the role could definitely be 24 hours! The environment is always changing, there is never a dull moment, and I really thrive off the dynamic role I have."

Meet the Buying Manager

Meet the Buying Manager

Paul Phipps, Buying Manager, River Island


"Being a Buying Manager is challenging every day yet a truly fantastic and rewarding experience. Leading and inspiring teams to deliver the overall business strategy and ensuring we are consistently exceeding our customers’ product expectations is paramount.


Travelling the world to see new and existing suppliers, reviewing our international stores and understanding new markets is a great part of the role. We live in a international world and understanding the global market is key to personal and business success."

Meet the Tutor

Meet the Tutor

Kim Spencer-Pell, Merchandising Tutor


"I have worked for over 33 years in fashion retail with experience in a variety of retailers from Harrods , House of Fraser , Dorothy Perkins , Pilot to ASOS and Miss Selfridge .
Working as a Merchandise Director for over 17 years I have wide ranging experience to share with students and have particular interest in strategy and planning .
I am as excited by fashion retail now as when I started in the industry and consider it a privilege to inspire new talent entering the industry."