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The Difference Between Fashion Buying and Fashion Merchandising

The Difference Between Fashion Buying and Fashion Merchandising: Which One Are You Suited To?

Have you been confused about the difference between fashion buying and fashion merchandising? Or rather, did you know they weren’t the same? 

The fashion industry is incredibly vast, and there exist roles that are not often spoken about in popular culture, but these roles are the foundation that makes the industry what it is today.  So, if you are just getting out of fashion school, or planning on beginning your career in fashion, it’s important that you are well informed about the choices you have.

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Fashion merchandising and fashion buying are often roles that are overshadowed by the seemingly more glamorous roles in the industry, and they can often be mistaken for the same thing. Retail businesses in fashion rely on keeping the latest styles in stock, and fashion buying and merchandising are two principal roles in establishing a store full of clothing and accessories that meet the demands of customers. There is a difference between fashion buying and fashion merchandising, the jobs are related with some similar duties, and some employers may combine the duties into a single designation, but there are differences that one must be aware of.


In an interview with Milisha Siroya, Head of Buying at Le Mill, we asked her the difference between buyers and merchandisers. And this is how she broke it down for us:


  • A lot of people mix up the two roles, however, they’re separate roles that work closely with one another.
  • A buyer is a lot more product-focused. A buyer typically makes selections at showrooms and fashion weeks. It is essential for a buyer to know current trends, their target audience, what people like to wear, where they eat, etc. Basically, they profile customers. Buyers do more product selection work, it’s a larger domain of work.
  • Whereas a merchandiser is someone who does finance-driven work. You’ll find these separated roles at larger stores, where the merchandiser will be doing a lot of stock allocation, creating range plans, ensuring there is a sufficient category ratio etc.
  • Something we do is maintain a top to bottom ratio, so if you are doing a selection, you need to balance it out with tops and bottoms. In a smaller organisation like Le Mill, I do both of these roles, so I’m both buyer and merchandiser, as it goes hand in hand.
  • The main job of a buyer or merchandiser is to make sure that whatever stock they select, they sell at the maximum profit and have the highest sell-through rate. So, you’re ensuring that the least amount of product is sold on discount. That’s the core of the job.

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Primary Focus


The primary focus of a fashion buyer is to choose the clothing and accessories that will go into a store. This duty can be incorporated into a merchandisers role, or the two may collaborate to make buying decisions. The buyer stays up-to-date on the latest fashion trends to ascertain what their target audience might want to buy next. The trend and personality of the store have to be taken into account while making decisions. Buyers order and track the merchandise as it is shipped from the supplier.


A fashion merchandiser aims to create an experience within the store that appeals to its customers. They are often involved in selecting the items that are available in the store, but also focus on how to set those items up, within the store. They work on analysing past sales reports, in terms of what size/colour/style is selling the most, and making buying decisions in line with their analysis. The goal of a fashion merchandiser is to meet the needs of the customers while increasing sales for the business.


So which role are you more suited to?

Skill Sets that Favour Buying:

  • Top-notch analysis skills allow a clear understanding of what type of merchandise a store may want, and what a customer may want to buy.
  •  Maths skills to buy within the budget, to supply the store with products that fit the customers’ desired price range.
  • Communication and negotiation skills. A buyer works with a variety of people, including merchandisers, management and suppliers. Dealing with suppliers requires the ability to negotiate for the best possible prices.

Skill Sets that Favour Merchandising:

  • A balance of fashion and business skills. They need a sense of the target audience and what they may want to see and experience when they decide to buy something. Fashion knowledge enables a good merchandiser to remain aware of the trends in fashion, in order to effectively forecast the newest trend. 
  • Data analysis and record keeping. Merchandisers need to keep a keen eye on their customers, and what they purchase. This should translate into clear and precise reports that are analysed thoroughly to determine what style/size/colour/concept is most popular. At the end of the day, profitability is the job, and without accurate data analysis, a merchandiser would not be doing their job. 
  • Strong decision-making skills.  There is a lot of accountability that comes with the job, so making firm decisions based on analysis is crucial. 

Starting off in the fashion industry can be daunting, and it’s always good to have some advice to help guide your decisions, so we asked Milisha Siroya for some advice.

“Read up, and be aggressive in your approach, in the sense that…apply everywhere, reach out to everyone you can, be more forthcoming and open to trying new things and discovering different opportunities…You need to be quick to adapt to technology…nurture relationships with upcoming designers and others in the industry…don’t only gauge the present, anticipate the future.”