Inside The Mind Of A Retail Buyer

Inside The Mind of a Retail Buyer

After working over a decade in product development, I often found myself as a bit of a liaison between my retail buyers and our designer partners. There were often noticeable gaps in how buyers and designers communicated with each other, translated trends and direction, and individually understood urgent business needs.

Generally designers were inspired by their creativity and passionate about the beauty of their designs.

While Buyers were all business and focused on any and all financial and sales opportunities.

However as their wholesale partners it’s important for designers to understand why buyers think the way they do and identify opportunities to bridge commonalities. By understanding their business perspectives and expectations, you’ll know how to create and cater the perfect pitch to land those wholesale accounts.

So I'm breaking down their persona for you so you know what you can expect and what that means for you and your fashion business when you pitch or partner with them.

Why Retail Buyers Are The Way They Are

Did you know that many buyers bonus based on their area of responsibilities performance and by achieving their financial goals?

So that means YOUR brand’s performance is directly tied to their income. 

Think about that for a minute - that means as you are landing those initial orders, you and your retail buyer partner are BOTH financially tied to your brand’s performance. That is one BIG commonality between you and your buyer that will also quickly become the foundation of your relationship.

It’s important to realize how critical this perspective is because what it means is that it’s not always about having the prettiest line or the trendiest line - it’s about having the most SALABLE line, because that is what will resonate with a retail buyer.

The Role of a Buyer & What that Means to You

Buyers manage businesses that can be valued at hundreds of millions of dollars and are given a lot autonomy to make key business driving decisions.

They are responsible for an open to buy - which includes their budget and the financial metrics that they must reach including sales, margin goals, inventory turns etc. Their Open to Buys are one of their most valuable tools to make future buying decisions.

As you can imagine their roles are demanding, they work long hours, and are overstretched so they are often coming from a place of a high stress and feeling the pressure to get results.

So being a retail buyer isn’t for wallflowers. It’s a role that requires very a very specific skillset to successful lead and manage

Common Personality Traits


  • Buyers have ownership of business driving decisions and they are given the autonomy to make decisions quickly that can have significant impacts on their business’s bottom line. They need to be sure of themselves and their decisions and frequently command authority very naturally. 

  • What this means to YOU: You need to mirror their confidence. They can smell fear and want to work with partners that are the experts of their business, knowledgeable about what to expect, and confident in their designs.  


  • Again because their bonus opportunities are based on financial performance they are hawk-eying sales and data. Facts and figures speak to them and they are reviewing their financials and sales weekly if not daily and making decisions based on the fiscal trends that they see.

  • What this means to YOU: Share your sales information with them and give them the data in a format that they understand. It’s important that you are able to speak about your business’s financials with competence and knowing that means you can prepare and practice speaking to them.

If you are interested in learning Retail Math or just need a little refresher download my Retail Guide & Cheatsheet for an overview on key financial metrics, relationships, and calculations.

If you are interested in learning Retail Math or just need a little refresher download my Retail Guide & Cheatsheet for an overview on key financial metrics, relationships, and calculations.

Trend Focused

  • A retail buyer’s job is to identify trends and buy that next big thing. They this very seriously and are constantly challenged to stay ahead of the trend curve and the competition and be first to market.

  • What this means to YOU: This is great commonality between buyers and designers. Being able to showcase and share your knowledge of trends, as they are appropriate for that potential retailer, is a great commonality that you can play up to.


  • Buyers are responsible for managing businesses and help accountable to reach their financial goals. So they often are masters of negotiation. They aren’t shy about asking for what they want and need for their business’s success. They will expect a bit of negotiation when it comes to partnership and pricing.

  • What this means to YOU: It means being able to hold your own in negotiation and understand that there is likely going to have to be compromise. So this comes back to being financially responsible for you brand and understanding how requests affect your merchandising and business strategies as well as your brand’s bottom line and own non-negotiables.


  • Buyers are always focused on developing partnerships with those who can help benefit their bottom line and many enjoy this aspect of their role and business. Partners who offer the best product, make their life the easiest, and are fun to work with are the ones who frequently stick around and are given additional opportunities over time. 

  • What this means to YOU: You need to invest in developing those partnerships. Your goal as a wholesale partner is not just to sell them product, but to also share the value of your brand and showcase how an established partnership is mutually beneficial to both of your businesses.

For more Insights on developing partnerships with retail buyers check out The Designer CEO Podcast episode, “How To Make Your Fashion Brand Irresistible To Retail Buyers And Get Your Line Bought”.