How to Transition From Retail to a Fashion Buying Career

How to Transition From Retail to a Fashion Buying Career - Style Nine to Five

If you have big dreams of working in the fashion industry, retail is one of the best places you can start. It gets you in on the ground floor, quite literally, of fashion. You will have the opportunity to make connections and learn so much about the industry while making money. Today we’re going to discuss specifically how you can transition from retail to a fashion buying career by leveraging your experience, connections and transferable skills.

Transferable Skills

If you have your heart set on a career in fashion buying you should be using each day to work toward that goal. Think, how can you get closer to a job as a fashion buyer? Build up your transferable skills as much as you can while you are in your current position. Trend forecasting is a highly desirable skill in fashion buying. While still working in retail try to take note of the trends you see and the relationship with customer buying patterns.

Here are some things you can learn and use going forward:

• How people spend money throughout the year

• How the economy affects buying trends

• Who the customers are (demographics)

• How long is the trend cycle?

• Trends tend to repeat every 20 years, so what can we expect next?

Discuss Opportunities With Your Manager and Gain Relevant Experience

Once you have settled into your position and built a relationship with your manager, you may want to reach out to them to let them know about your goals and see if there is any ways they can support you. You may want to bring this up at, or following, a yearly performance review for example. Their support could come in multiple forms. For example you could share your desire to be a fashion buyer and that you would like to be considered for the role if one comes up in the future.

Depending on the structure of the company you work for, there may also be opportunities to sit in on buying meetings, attend trade shows, or attend visits to sales agencies where buying happens. This can be an incredible opportunity for someone with a desire to work in fashion buying, to see how the process happens, how those relationships are built and what it takes to succeed as a fashion buyer. You could also volunteer for tasks like inventory management, visual merchandising, or any other duty that gets you closer to the product selection process.

When I worked in a small boutique, the owner brought me along to the agencies to help make buying decisions. It was not only a very exciting and fun experience for me to help make those important decisions for the store, but I learned so much more from that in person experience and had the opportunity to meet real players in the game who became connections in the industry.


A retail position can often be a great opportunity to split your time between work and education. With the nature of retail, it often offers a flexible schedule that can be built around classes and it is the kind of work that is easy to create a work-life balance, meaning that if you want to, you can likely get an education related to fashion buying simultaneously. A degree, or diploma in a field related to fashion buying can elevate your resume and help you stand out from other candidates who will also be applying to fashion buying positions. Throughout your education you will also have many opportunities to network — from events, to your peers, to interning or co-op programs that can sometimes result in a job with the organization.

Salary Range for a Fashion Buyer:

• The salary for a Junior Fashion Buyer in Canada can range broadly from around CAD $39,000 to CAD $67,500 annually, depending on experience, location, and specific company policies.

• The salary for a more experienced Fashion Buyer is between $62,000 and $89,000 per year, with an average base pay of approximately $79,551 per year.

Retail is such an amazing place to start in the fashion industry. You may not know it yet, but you are learning so much and the opportunities are endless. If your dream is to transition into fashion buying, start by thinking about the skills you have learned in your current position and how you can apply those as a fashion buyer. Next, set up a meeting with your manager to see how they can support your journey and how you can take on more responsibilities that will lead to your ultimate goal, you’ve got this!

If you are serious about transitioning from retail to another career in fashion, set up a Career Meeting with Style Nine to Five Founder Christie Lohr, who can help you define your goals and next steps in your journey.

Sheila O’Neill is a creative, innovative and inspiring storyteller with a background in fashion.

Featured Image – Adobe Image