Wholesale and Retail Buyers

Wholesale and retail buyers purchase a wide variety of merchandise or commodities for resale to consumers at the wholesale or retail level. Buyers have a large role in determining which products a company will sell. They buy durable and nondurable goods. Purchasing agents buy items and services for use by their own firm or organization such as raw materials for manufacturing.

Some of the common job titles are merchandiser, buyer, assistant buyer, assistant merchandise buyer, purchasing agent, purchasing specialist, trader, and procurement specialist.

A buyer's objective is to get the best deal for their company. Wholesale buyers and retail buyers consider a variety of factors such as price, quality, reliability, availability and technical support when selecting merchandise and suppliers. Selecting the best suppliers is one of the most vital aspects of a buying agents job.

Buyers that are employed by large and medium sized companies typically specialize in purchasing one or two lines of merchandise, whereas buyers that are employed by small stores are sometimes responsible for purchasing the company's complete inventory.

Wholesale buyers purchase merchandise from manufacturers and from wholesale companies for resale to retail companies, commercial establishments and other types of organizations. Buyers employed by retail businesses purchase items from wholesale companies or from manufacturers for resale to the public.


  • Negotiate prices and discount terms
  • Evaluate merchandise suppliers
  • Visit suppliers' plants and distribution centers
  • Evaluate buying trends, sales records and economic conditions to help determine the items a company will sell and to determine inventory requirements
  • Attend trade shows
  • Select and order merchandise
  • Make arrangements for the transportation of merchandise
  • Authorize payment of invoices
  • Collect information regarding customer preferences and needs
  • Make recommendations for merchandise selling prices

Job Characteristics

Most buyers work in comfortable offices. They sometimes work more than 40 hours per week due to conferences, special sales or production deadlines. Buyers that work in retail, often work during the evenings and weekends before back-to-school and holiday seasons. Sometimes buyers travel to attend trade shows and to visit the plants and distribution centers of suppliers.

Buying agents need the ability to analyze the technical data included in suppliers' proposals. They also need good communication, planning and mathematical skills. Wholesale buyers and retail buyers should also have the ability to perform financial analysis. Marketing skills and the ability to identify merchandise that will sell are important aspects of the occupation.

Employment Outlook

Little or no change in employment of wholesale and retail buyers is projected by the Bureau of Labor Statistics during the 2008 to 2018 timeframe. Some large retail stores have eliminated local buying departments and have a centralized buying department at the company headquarters which reduces the demand for buyers.

The median annual earnings for wholesale and retail buyers in 2008 was $48,710. The highest paid 10 percent earned more than $90,100.

In 2008 there were 527,400 purchasing managers, buyers and purchasing agent jobs. Approximately 42 percent were employed in the wholesale trade and manufacturing industries and about 10 percent were employed in retail trade.

Demand for wholesale buyers and retail buyers may be limited due to technological advances in areas such as software which has eliminated a lot of the paperwork involved in ordering and procuring merchandise and supplies. Purchasing through the Internet and the electronic data interchange as well as the offshoring of basic buying activities to other countries will also limit the demand for buying specialists.

Experienced wholesale buyers and retail buyers have opportunities to advance into assistant purchasing manager, purchasing manager, supply manager and director of materials management jobs. In most industries, continuing education is vital for advancement.

Education, Certification, and Licensing

Wholesale and retail buyers often begin their careers as trainees, junior buyers, assistant buyers or purchasing clerks. Most employers seek candidates that have earned a college degree and have knowledge regarding the merchandise they sell and have knowledge about retailing and wholesaling practices.

Large stores often seek applicants that have a bachelor's degree with an emphasis in business. In retail and wholesale businesses, most trainees begin by selling merchandise, keeping track of stock and checking invoices of materials that were received. Buyers also need to be knowledgeable about the Internet and various software packages.

Numerous manufacturing companies emphasize formal training and prefer to hire those with a bachelor's degree or a master's degree in business, engineering, economics or one of the applied sciences. Many high level purchasing manager positions require a master's degree. Beyond education, buyers need to learn the specifics of the company's business. Buyers usually have training periods which last from one to five years.

Many purchasing specialists and purchasing managers take college courses in supply management and attend seminars provided by professional societies. There are several recognized credentials available to purchasing agents and purchasing managers. The Institute for Supply Management and the American Purchasing Society offer certification.


Major Employers

The major employers are wholesale electronic markets, grocery and related product merchant wholesalers and retail stores.

Schools for Wholesale And Retail Buyers are listed in the Browse Schools Section.

Wholesale and Retail Buyers Skills

Below are the skills needed to be wholesale and retail buyers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Skill NameImportanceCompetence
Active Listening3.753.88
Critical Thinking3.754

Wholesale and Retail Buyers Abilities

Below are the abilities needed to be wholesale and retail buyers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Ability NameImportanceCompetence
Oral Comprehension44
Oral Expression44
Deductive Reasoning3.754
Written Comprehension3.754
Problem Sensitivity3.623.5

Wholesale and Retail Buyers Knowledge

Below are the knowledge areas needed to be wholesale and retail buyers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 7 being highest).

Knowledge AreaImportanceCompetence
Sales and Marketing3.824.4
Customer and Personal Service3.734.51
English Language3.613.97
Administration and Management3.413.52

Wholesale and Retail Buyers Work activities

Below are the work activities involved in being wholesale and retail buyers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest) and competency level on a scale of 1 to 7 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work ActivityImportanceCompetence
Getting Information4.223.73
Communicating with Supervisors, Peers, or Subordinates4.044.94
Interacting With Computers4.023.56
Processing Information3.923.84
Identifying Objects, Actions, and Events3.83.91

Wholesale and Retail Buyers Work styles

Below are the work styles involved in being wholesale and retail buyers according to their importance on the scale of 1 to 5 (1 being lowest and 5 being highest).

Work StyleImportance
Attention to Detail4.17

Metro Areas Sorted by Total Employment for
Wholesale and Retail Buyers

Listed below are the 10 largest metro areas based on the total number of people employed in Wholesale and Retail Buyers jobs , as of 2019

Metro AreaTotal EmploymentAnnual Mean Salary
AkronN/A N/A
ToledoN/A N/A
MansfieldN/A N/A
Oklahoma CityN/A N/A
TulsaN/A N/A
LimaN/A N/A
DaytonN/A N/A
BismarckN/A N/A
Canton-MassillonN/A N/A
Cleveland-ElyriaN/A N/A

Total employment and salary for professions similar to wholesale and retail buyers

Source : 2019 Occupational Employment Statistics and 2018-28 Employment Projections, Bureau of Labor Statistics, BLS.gov; O*NET® 24.2 Database, O*NET OnLine, National Center for O*NET Development, Employment & Training Administration, U.S. Department of Labor, onetonline.org

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We have some additional detailed pages at the state level for Wholesale and Retail Buyers.

Numbers in parentheses are counts of relevant campus-based schools in the state; online schools may also be available.