Your Complete Guide to Buying and Merchandising

Buying and Merchandising


Buying and Merchandising is one of the most exciting,diverse and fast-paced departments in any brand or fashion house. If you’ve heard of these terms, but aren’t entirely clear on what they mean or what job roles they entail, read on for our complete guide to Buying and Merchandising.

Here at the Fashion Retail Academy, we’ve also just launched our brand new retail degree – BA (Hons) in Buying & Merchandising. In this post, we’ll be taking you through some of the details of this course, and whether or not it might be right for you.

But firstly, let’s cover the basics.

What is Buying and Merchandising?

The separate functions of Buying and Merchandising are often grouped together, as the two roles work closely to devise the product strategy and maximise sales for a brand or fashion house. This might include finding out what customers are buying and analysing the current trends on the market, in order to create a clear picture of what’s going to sell well. The two functions collaborate at various points of the supply chain, and are responsible for getting the right products into the right store at the right time.

As you can see, Buying and Merchandising are both roles which require a balance of creativity and commercial sense. If you love thinking outside of the box but also have a good head for numbers, this might just be the right department for you.

What are the differences between Buying and Merchandising?

As we mentioned, Buying and Merchandising are often grouped together, meaning that some people are unsure how to distinguish between the two job roles.

Buyers and Merchandisers work closely together to produce a cohesive range for a brand that eventually goes into stores. The Buyer works closely with the Designer to create a vision as to what the nature and aesthetic of the range should be, based on current trends, supplier costs and brand values. The Merchandiser uses this information to piece the range together, using historical data and financial information to decide on stock volumes and predict the success of the products.

As you can see, there are a number of differences between the two roles, and one may be much more suitable for you than the other.

What is Merchandising?

If you become a Merchandiser, you’ll either work in the head office, or at store level. Your main responsibilities would include forecasting sales for the department, allocating the correct amount of stock for various stores, and creating a budget for Buyers. In essence, fashion Merchandising is all about maximising sales, so on a store level it might also include choosing how to display and promote products to get the most consumer interest.

What is Buying?

On the other hand, the most fundamental concern when it comes to fashion buying is choosing which specific products to buy from an aesthetic and trend-led point of view. They also decide which suppliers the brand should work with, and negotiate prices for all stock. They must balance customer insights with a strict budget at all times – leading to a varied and dynamic day-to-day.

Sound like you? Read on to find out all about our exciting new degree programme – which helps you to land your dream job, in a way that’s much quicker and more cost-effective than a traditional degree.

Introducing our new degree

At the FRA, we operate a large number of fashion buying courses and fashion business courses. Our latest is the BA HONS in Buying & Merchandising, a two-year course developed in partnership with Falmouth University, which has been ranked gold in the Teaching Excellence Framework. Designed to fast-track your route into a role in Buying and Merchandising, our highly practical and vocational course also only costs two-thirds of the costs of other degrees.

Featuring exclusive insights from over 50 leading fashion brands, it’s packed full of both theoretical content and unrivalled practical experience. While the entirety of your course will be delivered at our lively campus in central London, the degree you receive will come from Falmouth University – arming you with a qualification from one of the country’s top universities with which to approach those all-important (and all-too competitive) graduate retail jobs. For the duration of your degree, you will also have exclusive access to Falmouth University’s full online resources and library.

The course will help you to develop commercial and analytical skills you’ll need to excel in your future career through workshops, masterclasses and placements. You’ll gain a deep and comprehensive understanding of the essential factors which have an influence on fashion business operations and profits. Whether you dream of becoming a Merchandiser or are wondering how to become a fashion Buyer, the course prepares you equally for each discipline. On any given day, future Merchandisers might learn about risk reduction, production quality and range development, while prospective Buyers will learn how to spot seasonal trends and analyse customer behaviour.

Why study at the FRA?

As well as the unique and highly effective nature of our accelerated course, the Fashion Retail Academy itself has plenty to offer for future fashion students.

Firstly, we are focused in helping you to secure employment following the completion of your studies. Therefore, you’ll undergo a Live Industry Project to give you “real world” experience of working with a current high street employer, and you’re also guaranteed an interview after your graduate. Throughout your studies you’ll be supported by an Industry Mentor – and all of our staff have an extensive background in the fashion retail field. You really are learning from the best.

As our course takes place over two years, you’ll study more intensively. However, you’ll shave a year off your education without compromising on quality, getting you into that dream job more quickly. The practical experience you’ll receive gives you a real competitive advantage over your peers.

One of the things which makes our college so unique is the sheer amount of industry input which shapes each and every one of our courses. In fact, we collaborate with over 130 retail brands to deliver relevant, accurate and insightful programmes designed to help you excel in your studies and beyond. Our state-of-the-art campus couldn’t be more ideally located – in the centre of London, you’re steps away from the UK’s fashion retail hub.

What roles can you go into?

Once you’ve studied with us, you’ll have the practical experience and theoretical knowledge you’ll need to walk into a Buying or Merchandising role. Graduate Buyers might begin their careers as a BAA (Buying Administrative Assistant) before advancing through the ranks, while Merchandisers will likely apply for MAA (Merchandising Administrative Assistant), Allocator, or Online Assistant Merchandiser roles. Whichever you choose, you’ll have the contacts, portfolio and expertise to hit the ground running.

Don’t just take it from us…

Some of our alumni have gone on to do amazing things. While our Fashion Buying & Merchandising degree is brand new, graduates from our other related courses have told us a little bit about what they loved about their time with us, and why.

Aimee Howes graduated Level 4 Buying in 2013, and now work for M&S. “Choosing the Fashion Retail Academy was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. The work placement opportunities were a key highlight for me, as this was invaluable knowledge that you could not learn in a classroom, and set me up for a career in retail.”

Courtney Spellacy completed her Level 4 Fashion Merchandising course in 2014, and also now works for M&S. “Whilst studying at the Academy, I was fortunate enough to be exposed to a number of industry experts, which prepared me for what life in Merchandising would really be like. With the help of the Academy’s Career Fair, I was able to achieve my goal and secure my first job within the lingerie allocation team at M&S.”

Are you interested in studying with us here at the FRA? Click here to find out more out our exciting new BA (Hons) in Buying & Merchandising!