Six-Figure Base Salaries Common for Retail Buying Vets: Survey

According to a survey recently conducted by retail executive search firm Career Management, almost 60 percent of retail buyers in various industries with 10 or more years of buying experience earn over $100,000 annually, with 43.8 percent of respondents reporting salaries (excluding bonuses and other compensation) in the $100,000-$150,000 range, 11.4 percent in the $150,000-to-$200,000 range, and 4.2 percent more than $200,000. At the lower end of the scale, 24.0 percent of buyers within this group earned in the $80,000-to-$100,000 range, 5.2 percent were in the $70,000 to $80,000 range, and 11.4 percent earned under $70,000.

Among respondents with five to 10 years of buying experience, about one-third had six-figure base salaries, with 27.7 percent earning between $100,000 and $150,000 and 6.2 percent exceeding $150,000. Regarding the rest of this group, 21.5 percent said they earned between $80,000 and $100,000, 26.2 percent made between $70,000 and $80,000, 13.8 percent were between $60,000 and $70,000, and 4.6 percent earned under $60,000.

Just over half of respondents with less than five years buying experience earned more than $70,000, with 28.4 percent in the $70,000-to-$80,000 range, and 23.8 percent making more than $80,000. Additionally, 20.5 percent reported salaries in the $60,000-to-$70,000 range, 11.4 percent were in the $50,000-to-$60,000 range, and 15.9 percent earned under $50,000.

Most buyers are augmenting their salaries with bonuses -- 83.3 percent of those polled said they were eligible for such compensation. The average size of the bonus in relation to yearly salary was up to 10 percent for 24.2 percent of respondents, 10 percent to 20 percent for 39.6 percent of the group, 20 percent to 30 percent for 25 percent of those polled, 30 percent to 40 percent for 5.6 percent, and 40 percent-plus for another 5.6 percent.

"The salary levels point to a highly competitive market," said Career Management president and c.e.o. Lloyd A. Lippman. "Retailers have found that it's very difficult to attract and keep the right buyers. At the same time, though, more and more chains are giving incentives to buyers tied to individual and company performance."

This increased competition coincides with buyers taking on a more specialized role in larger retail organizations, noted Lippman, adding that buyers now no longer personally handle such duties product design, development, sourcing, and the allocation of goods to stores. Today many of these functions are performed by separate departments, with buyers coordinating their efforts, he said.

Findings that back up that assessment include:
-- Just 20.4 percent of those surveyed were responsible for allocating purchase orders to their stores, with the remaining 79.6 percent saying that this function was handled by an allocation team.
-- A majority (59.2 percent) of respondents said they were responsible for quantifying the size of the buy, while 20.4 percent said that this function was performed by planners, and another 20.4 percent said that this was handled by a committee.

East Brunswick, N.J.-based Career Management conducted its confidential survey among buyers in the apparel, footwear, jewelry/accessories, furniture/decorative home/ housewares electronics/appliances, sporting goods, office products, books/music, hardware/home improvement/auto supplies, department store, discount store/warehouse club/off-price big-box, and catalog/e-commerce realms, with the findings checked against responses from human resources executives, general merchandise managers, and divisional merchandise managers from major chains who took part in a separate survey by the firm.
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