Cultivating Outstanding Fashion Buyers



May 1, 2024

Why Training and Development matters for fashion buyers

three ladies at meeting table

In the fashion retail world becoming an outstanding buyer is not just about making purchases. With the retail landscape changing constantly it’s is becoming more than having an eye for product and about navigating complexities, fostering business relationships, and driving innovation. At the heart of  this lies a culture of communication, integrity, empowerment, and a willingness to learn from mistakes.

Carol Meyrowitz sits the helm of the TJX group of companies. TJX Companies, Inc. is a leading off-price retailer of apparel and home fashions in the U.S. and worldwide and the force behind well-known retail brands like T.J. Maxx, Marshalls, and HomeGoods. Her journey has been marked by strategic vision, resilience, and an unyielding commitment to transforming TJX into an international retail powerhouse. From the time she joined in 2007, the company’s $16 billion in revenue grew to some $54 billion as of Jan 2024.

A highly regarded figure in the retail industry, she is renowned for her visionary leadership and commitment to nurturing talent within the fashion retail sector. As the former CEO of TJX Companies, Meyrowitz played a pivotal role in shaping the company’s success and establishing its reputation as a powerhouse in off-price retail.

Throughout her tenure at TJX, Meyrowitz demonstrated a strong commitment to training and developing fashion buyers. She recognized that exceptional buyers are the backbone of a successful retail operation, and she prioritized investments in training programs to cultivate talent within the buying organization.

It was her article in Harvard Business Review (May 2014) that resonated with me and the following points of which I want to share. There are so many articles and social media posts about how ‘easy’ it is to become a fashion buyer  or how glamorous it is to work as a fashion buyer. What is rarely mentioned is the talent, hard work, experience and training required to excel as a fashion buyer.  Throughout my career in fashion buying I have been responsible for coaching , nurturing and training buyers. Even today there is still a huge skills and knowledge gap between what is taught in college versus the reality of the day to day role of the fashion buyer. Here are some of the key and relevant points.

Outstanding buyers should possess an insatiable curiosity. This is a great point and something rarely mentioned. It is a buyers role to constantly seek out opportunities for new products, new development and to expand their knowledge and explore new directions within their buying remit. Having a genuine curiosity serves as a catalyst for innovation, propelling them to think outside the box and challenge the status quo. In my experience buying products was never cut and dried ! In fact I always took the opportunity to change modify and improve my products and range until the last moment ( within my timelines)  to ensure I was confirming the best range offer for that season.

While curiosity and an eye for product are core traits a buyer should possess, training is the key support system upon which exceptional buyers are built. Effective training programs equip aspiring buyers with the skills, knowledge, and mindset required to excel in the competitive world of retail. However, training extends beyond the technical aspects of buying. It’s not just the hard skills but also the soft or transferrable skills that matter. A holistic approach that fosters personal growth, professional development, and ethical decision-making is just as important to develop

Becoming an outstanding buyer is a journey where you never reach a final destination !! There is always something to learn but It is a journey characterized by curiosity, continuous learning, and a commitment to ethical business practices. For  buyers on their individual  journey, they should learn to embrace the challenges, learn from their mistakes, and remain steadfast in wanting to achieve and demonstrate excellence. The fashion industry is a small world and the reputation you build is important to protect. There continued evolution and innovation of the retail industry is required in which we all have a role to play.

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meet elisabeth

Meet  Elisabeth, the driving force behind The Design Directive. With over 25 years of experience in the fashion industry, Elisabeth has honed a unique skillset that combines fashion design, buying, and business management. As a passionate advocate for fashion retailers, she empowers businesses to innovate and grow by providing expert strategies and fashion buying know-how. Elevate your brand’s success with her guidance today!

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