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A day in the life of an Assistant Buyer

assistant buyer career advice

Are you thinking about a career in retail buying? We interview Lauren Irvine, an assistant buyer, to get an insight on what the job consists of and advice on how to be successful in the role.


How did you begin your career as an Assistant Buyer?

I have always been interested in fashion. I took a place at Manchester Metropolitan University on their fashion buying course and upon graduating with a first class honours degree in 2012, I was fortunate to get a job as a trainee buyer at Matalan.

I started working on the homeware team, however I quickly realised that fashion was where my interest lay and I was happy to make the move onto the lingerie team in 2014. Shortly after I was promoted to an assistant buyer and I haven’t looked back since.

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How does your average day start?

My day starts at 8.30am and I begin by answering emails from suppliers. I aim to have these done as quickly as possible to cater for the time difference in Asia. If I send emails at the start of the day, I can receive replies the same day and suppliers can action any requests.

From this there will always be action points, from working out cost prices to reviewing lab dips and from there I work to a list of priorities.

How has the position evolved since you began your career?

I think the role has largely remained the same, however, fashion is an ever-changing industry and with that there is a lot of movement from managers across the floor. There will always be new expectations and it is about learning to evolve with different managers and manage expectations.

What is your favourite part of the job?

I love the creativity and in particular, the process of sitting with the design team and coming up with new ranges and then receiving the finished samples. I find it hugely rewarding. I also love the fact that my role is very varied and my days can range from reviewing sales to reviewing images from photo-shoots. It’s certainly never dull!

What is the most difficult part of your job?

Buying is a very busy role and quite often urgent jobs will come up which need to be completed by the end of the day. Time management skills need to come into play to prioritise your day and ensure tasks are completed on time. This can sometimes be a little stressful, but it is all part of working on the trading floor.

What do you feel are the key skills needed to be successful in your role?

To be successful within buying you need to have a keen interest in the role and passion for your product. I feel that attention to detail is crucial. Creativity skills and an ability to predict and then react to future trends is also very useful.

In regards to skills, it’s important to have good analytical skills and to be able to negotiate. Remaining organised at all times and being able to work under pressure in order to meet tight deadlines is also important. Team working and communication skills are also essential within buying, as buyers liaise with teams across the company.

How did you get started in the profession?

My mum always had copies of Vogue magazine in the house and liked to take me shopping, so I was interested in fashion from a young age. Having taken subjects like Latin and Biology for A Level I was looking towards careers in either law or medicine but when my mum introduced the idea of fashion as a career it captured my imagination and I knew that was what I wanted to do.

What is your biggest achievement in your role to date?

My promotion as this recognised the hard work and effort I had put in since the start of my career.

What advice would you give someone who wants to progress to your position?

I think you need to be very passionate about your role and your product and be prepared to work very hard. It is a competitive industry and you need to be able to separate yourself in order to become noticed. Therefore, it will always be helpful to ensure you go the extra mile within your own team. Doing so will raise your profile and ensure you are noticed across the business.

What do you think the next step in your career will be?

The next step for me is to step into a junior buyer or buyer role. I am very passionate about working my way up within the company and I am always striving to progress and learn as much as I can.

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