In the midst of a dramatically changing retail landscape with increasing competition and more demanding customers, the role of the buyer is more important than ever – especially when it comes to home interior products.
Selecting items that look good is still important – but there are also price, quality, uniqueness, social shareability and logistical aspects to consider too, given that online shopping is now one of the most popular ways to buy.
Here we look at the three main skillsets needed to succeed as an interiors buyer in today’s retail world.
1. Predicting and analysing trends
When it comes to buying products to sell on a large scale, the process is often completed at least one season in advance. This often means placing orders for items that will then be manufactured and sold months in the future, sometimes longer.
Therefore, planning the next season’s buying schedule means buyers need to have a good idea of trend forecasts and what people will be looking for at that time. To get ahead of the interior trends, buyers and stylists will often visit trade shows as their first port of call for research.
Popular trade shows in the interiors sector include Maison&Objet in Paris, Formland in Denmark and Salone Del Mobile Milano in Milan. These shows see thousands of suppliers showcase their new innovations, products and technologies, which buyers can evaluate to see if and how they could fit into their brand’s product range.
Interior buyers also often spend a lot of time carrying out research in shops and stores across the globe, looking for ideas and concepts that they can emulate or use as a base to translate into their own approach.
And it’s not just stores that interior buyers visit for inspiration, either. “Often the inspiration for a new product comes from the bar stools at a cool restaurant or the planters in a hotel courtyard,” comments Dani Taylor, buying director at homewares etailer Cox & Cox.
2. Getting into the mind of the customer
As a buyer, you should have a natural passion about the products and industry you are working in. However, a big challenge is then to detach your own personal views and tastes when selecting products that will be sold on behalf of the brand you are working for.
At home you might prefer everything Scandinavian-inspired and neutral, but research might have shown that your customer loves glitz, bling and glamour when it comes to their home interior. Therefore, what you end up putting on your buying sheets might not be items that you would choose for yourself.
Flex occasional chair in blue velvet, Cox & Cox
This can often be one of the hardest parts of the job, especially when social considerations – such as using ethically sourced products or eco-friendly packaging – come into the equation as well. These things might be very important to you personally, but not accessible, or affordable, for your brand.
3. Collaboration with the wider team
Buying a bestselling line or range can be extremely rewarding. However, often this doesn’t happen without a great deal of collaboration with the wider team and other departments.
Although buyers often have the most influence and decision power when it comes to buying the product range, there are often multiple discussions that take place before the orders have been placed to ensure that everyone is happy with the choices made.
From queries about price or fabrics, to ways to merchandise online or in-store, there is bound to be lots of questions from other business stakeholders. Other issues will be surrounding logistics, packaging, delivery to the customer’s home and care and maintenance advice post-sale.
Oak ladder shelf, Cox & Cox
“Everyone has a valuable viewpoint and thinks of questions we might not think to ask," says Dani. "From Dan our operations director about how to send it, to our customer experiences manager Audrey on what a customer might ask – all these things have an impact on what we end up buying.”
Being an interiors buyer today is much more multi-faceted compared to what it was a couple of decades ago. If you are committed to entering this industry, then it’s vital to hone your skillset accordingly to react to all the demands that come with the job.