Benise is a fashion buyer for one of South Africa’s largest retail chain stores. She shared a little of her career journey and work experience with us, so we could learn more about her career in retail.
Benise completed her studies in clothing management at the Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT) and commenced with her in-service training at the Trade Call Investments Apparel (TCI) factory in Cape Town. Thereafter, she landed a job at Woolworths. She explains how: “I called Woolworths to set up a meeting and applied for a job in the buying division. Three months later, I started working as a buyer’s assistant.” Benise now works as a senior fashion buyer at Woolworths in their Women’s Edition Wardrobe department.
Buyers are generally responsible for buying merchandise at the most competitive prices in order to ensure that an organisation operates profitably. They need to oversee supply chain management, which at times can be on a global scale. They need to have good negotiation and networking skills, as well as an ability to deal with numbers so that a business can reduce costs while increasing profits.
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“Product is my passion,” Benise explains. “I love working with a product that is inspiring and that stimulates my creativity.
“Working with fabrics, design and colour all comes into this, and it is incredibly stimulating. Working alongside my designer with the product, seeing it go into stores and then watching the positive sales performance every week, makes it all worth it,” Benise says.
Benise has plenty of advice for those who would love to work as a buyer. “To start off with, make sure that you study the correct course,” she suggests. “You will be a much better buyer if you start off at the bottom, learning and absorbing as much as possible throughout each stage while working your way up to the top.”
Benise says that by starting her retail career working as a merchandiser and designer at a factory that supplied the retailers, gave her a solid understanding of the manufacturing business. “I only saw the importance of this later, when as a buyer, I had to start negotiating with suppliers, and I was already equipped with knowledge of their processes, lead times and challenges.”
Benise also emphasises the importance of not falling for misconceptions but knowing what one is getting themselves into. “There is often the perception that being a buyer is glamorous; however the role requires a lot of hard work. It involves a fair amount of travelling as well as working long hours at critical times in the buying process,” she explains, adding that, “Working in merchandising is not just about choosing pretty clothes. You have to have a logical brain because there is a lot of science behind the product.
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“You are not simply choosing clothes that you love; you are designing and buying what the customer likes. You need to understand your target market and provide them with the trends they expect to find at the right price and at the right time.”
Lastly, Benise suggests that confidence is critical in having a successful career in buying. “The arrival of international brands in the South African market has meant that the customer is exposed to more international fashion than ever before.
“The customer has an instant view of what the global fashion trends are, which means that as a buyer, you need to be ahead of the curve to be competitive. You need to be flexible and also be certain of what you’re doing. When you’re confident and give your job your best at all times, you deliver exceptional sales – a skill that you will develop over time as you gain more experience,” says Benise.
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