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Buying and Merchandising - Overview

Overview

Buying and merchandising programs prepare people to work as professional buyers of products to be resold in stores. Students learn how to judge products and negotiate sales. They also study market research and marketing techniques.

What gives a store a reputation for being "cool"? It's usually a number of things, including the d├ęcor, the music that plays in the background, and even the sales staff. But in the end, it usually comes down the merchandise. After all, it's the stuff you take home with you that lasts.

So in many ways, the credit really belongs to the buyers. These are the people who buy the merchandise before it ever hits the store shelves. They negotiate with the companies and in some cases, individuals, who create and produce the products. In most cases, they buy the item in bulk, and then resell it in the store.

To work as a buyer and merchandiser, then, requires specialized knowledge of trends, marketing, and sales. You have to know what your store's target consumers want and like to buy. You also have to be able to predict the next "big" thing. In addition, you have to be able to buy the product at a good price so that when it's resold, the store makes a profit.

It's an interesting, challenging job, and many schools offer programs in buying and merchandising. In many cases, they are part of fashion, textiles, or consumer science departments. While it's true that clothing and accessories dominate what buyers purchase, you can also be a buyer and merchandiser for a variety of stores, from electronics to sports equipment.

In general, your course work includes economics, marketing, psychology, and business communication. You also study negotiation skills and contracts management. The real bread and butter of this program, though, are the courses in merchandise management and buying techniques. Some programs offer courses in design and fashion.

About 85 two- and four-year schools offer programs in buying and merchandising. Two-year programs offer an associate degree, and the course work can often be transferred to four-year schools. Bachelor's degrees, which usually take four years, are the most common.

Source: Illinois Career Information System (CIS) brought to you by Illinois Department of Employment Security.
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