International Retail Buying & Merchandising

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International Fashion Branding
International Retail Buying & Merchandising

‘Evaluate the various buying structures that exist in order to support a retail buying function and the impact of these buying structures on the roles and responsibilities of the retail buyer. Use illustrative examples to support your answer.’

Within the retail environment customer satisfaction and company profitability are a crucial consideration in the merchandise choice of the buyer (Diamond & Pintel, 2008). The range of the buyer’s duties will depend on the size of the business and can be seen as three main buying approaches; centralised, decentralised and a combination of the two. Throughout this essay the buying structures will be explored in depth and the advantages and disadvantages of each will be underlined. The difference between these three approaches will highlight further the roles and responsibilities of the retail buyer and how they change depending on the type of organisation. The buyer’s role within the retail sector is an extremely crucial one. A fashion buyer selects a range of products targeted at a specific clientele within a certain price range to hopefully gain profit for a retail company (Kang, 1999). Therefore getting the merchandise collection correct has been described as ‘the engine of success’ within retailing (Aufreiter et al., 1993). A successful buyer requires a variety of skills including communication, calculation, analysing market positions, the power of negotiation and should also be creative (Varley, 2005). There are three roles of a buyer as stated by Hirshman and Stampfl (1980), firstly as a change agent where the buyer inspires the consumer to consider purchasing new and exciting goods, secondly as a gatekeeper where the buyer will coordinate the movement of the product from supplier directly to the customer. Finally the opinion leader role will encourage the customer’s outlook however this does not necessarily result in a direct purchase from the company. The key activities which a retail buyer must carry out are as follows; analysis of market opportunity which helps understand consumer buying behaviour, the creation of a merchandise plan which will incorporate a range of goods and merchandise within that category. The buyer needs to then select and build a solid relationship with a supplier to give the business a competitive advantage. The development of the product will ensure an exclusive feel of the brand, precisely tailored to meet the desires of the retailer and their customer. These goods will then me packaged, presented and promoted accordingly (Fernie et al., 2003). The buying role can differ between companies due to the size of the organisation, the budget allocated, classification of merchandise, the number of employees and where the stores are located (Diamond & Pintel, 2008). These attributes clearly define the organisational structure that a business will use to approach the buying role. The first of the three approaches, which large chain stores favour, is a centralised structure. This is where a whole buying team are involved and all purchase decisions are made at Head Office. Usually buyers will have separate departments and select a specific product range, for example lingerie or footwear (Goworek, 2001). As the size of a company grows, the buyer’s role becomes more intense as they deal with larger sums of money, a greater number of products and competition increases. More staff is brought in to help spread the workload and this in turn separate the buying role from the marketing one. This can be perceived as a negative as buyers are required to be kept up to date with promotions and merchandising decisions (Rosenbloom, 1981). On the other hand, there any many advantages of buying taking place in Head Office over store level. Stores with full point-of-sale data capture systems can accumulate up to date information on sale trends and buying patterns for each item and...
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