Buyers and Purchasing Agents
On the Job
Buyers and purchasing agents try to buy the best products at the lowest possible prices.
Take an ordinary bottle of shower gel. You bought it because it smells nice, is affordable, and has special ingredients for dry skin. Have you ever thought how that shower gel was made? Maybe you picture large vats of bubbly liquid being stirred. But what about the different ingredients that go into the vats? Maybe now you are picturing a scientist in a white lab coat, testing the latest recipe. Yet, that scientist is not the only person involved in creating the perfect shower gel. Someone is needed to buy the glycerin, preservatives, and lathering agents. These products all come from different vendors and suppliers. Some of these products might affect the natural environment less than other products.Buyers and purchasing agents buy goods and services for their companies. These goods and services are then resold. Those who buy finished goods, such as clothes or furniture, are called buyers. Those who buy the parts and materials that help make goods are called purchasing agents or purchasers. These two types of workers have similar duties.
Before buying any goods, buyers and purchasers research suppliers. Suppliers are the people who sell the goods and services. Buyers and purchasing agents review the history and quality of the suppliers. They go to trade shows and examine the goods that are on display. They may travel to factories to examine products. Buyers and purchasing agents review suppliers' products for prices, quality, availability, environmental impact, and selection.
Once buyers and purchasing agents find a few good suppliers, they solicit bids. This means they give suppliers a list of what they want. Suppliers then give buyers and purchasing agents a written statement of the cost for all those goods. Buyers and purchasing agents try to bargain for a lower price on the goods. They may take a higher priced product if it is better for the environment. Once they are happy with the price, buyers or purchasers sign a contract with the supplier. Buyers and purchasing agents continue to monitor the contract to ensure the agreements are met. If there are any problems, they work with suppliers to resolve them.
Purchasing agents must know how their products are created. They must know what types of material work best for manufacturing. They also look at which materials have less of an environmental impact. They must order parts to be there when production needs them. If the parts are missing, many businesses have to stop production. If purchasing agents don't plan well, companies lose money.
Buyers are rarely told what to buy. Instead, they buy what they think appeals to customers. Thus, buyers must be aware of the latest fashion trends. Buyers also watch their competitors and see what they are buying. Many customers want to buy products that are environmentally friendly. Buyers and purchasing agents look for green products to sell. They decide when and how to introduce green products to their customers.
Buyers and purchasing agents often specialize in what they buy. For example, a buyer for a department store may buy only shoes. A purchasing agent may buy one type of commodity, such as steel, cotton, or wheat. However, in small companies, one buyer may buy all the products. Buyers and purchasers keep track of economic information that relates to their product. Thus, they track market conditions, price trends, environmental issues, or the futures market. Many buyers and purchasing agents use computers to track this data. They also use computers to monitor inventory and sales.
Some buyers and purchasing agents are supervised by managers. These managers handle the more difficult purchases. Other buyers and purchasing agents direct staff. For example, they may teach staff about the qualities of new products. They may also approve advertising campaigns and recommend prices.
In some companies, buyers and purchasing agents are involved in product development. Their knowledge of a part's cost, availability, and suitability to the job can help with the design. Another recent change is team buying. Buyers and purchasing agents work closely with other staff when deciding what to buy. They may talk with engineers and quality control staff about the best parts to order. They may consider the environmental impact of shipping products. Buyers or purchase agents might choose a product that is made nearby to reduce the energy needed to ship it.
Purchasing staff who work for the federal government may be called contract specialists. They usually use sealed bids. Different suppliers submit their product prices on an anonymous bid. The specialist chooses the bid that is the lowest. Contract specialists must follow many laws. Since the laws change occasionally, contract specialists must stay informed.
Farm product buyers work closely with farmers. They may negotiate contracts for farmers to produce certain goods, such as milk, soybeans, or Christmas trees. They may arrange for the purchase of seeds for the farmer to grow. Farm product buyers spend a lot of time outside surveying the land. They may advise farm workers or growers how to increase their production. They may also help farmers learn to grow produce that meets organic standards. They also may write their suggestions in publications that reach larger audiences.
The following list of occupational tasks is specific to this career.
- Choose products to sell. Consider quality, size, or environmental soundness.
- Locate and arrange for purchase of goods.
- Compare transportation choices to lower energy use for moving products.
- Direct and coordinate workers' activities.
- Analyze product information. This may include what is a good price to pay or which product has less effect on the environment.
- Negotiate lowest price with suppliers and vendors.
- Formulate policies and rules for placing bids for goods or services. Consider impact on the environment.
- Award contracts to suppliers.
- Evaluate and monitor contracts to ensure promises are met.
- Confer with vendors to discuss new products, green products, or problems with orders.
- Use computer software to manage sales records and inventory.
- Identify customer and store needs. This includes customers' efforts to buy green products.
- Determine the best way to introduce new green products.
- Set or recommend prices on products. This includes green products.
- Develop and approve advertising materials.
- Advertise green products based on customer wants and needs.
- Teach staff about new products.
- Monitor competitor's sales activities.
- Research environmental trends and economic conditions to predict buying patterns.
- Arrange purchase of equipment, fertilizer, or feed.
People in this career perform the following list of tasks, but the tasks are common to many occupations.
- Establish and maintain relationships.
- Communicate with supervisors, peers, or subordinates.
- Make decisions and solve problems.
- Get information needed to do the job.
- Communicate with people from outside the organization.
- Convince others to buy goods or change their minds or actions.
- Use computers.
- Resolve conflicts and negotiate with others.
- Update and use job-related knowledge.
- Organize, plan, and prioritize work.
- Judge the value of objects, services, or people.
- Perform administrative tasks.
- Work with the public.
- Process information.
- Think creatively.
- Monitor events, materials, and surroundings.
- Estimate sizes, quantities, time, cost, or materials needed.
- Schedule work and activities.
- Analyze data or information.
- Explain the meaning of information to others.
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Have a high level of contact with others.
- Communicate with others by telephone, e-mail, and face-to-face discussions. They also write letters and memos, but less frequently.
- Often work as part of a team.
- Are sometimes placed in conflict situations in which others may be rude or angry.
- Are somewhat responsible for the work done by others.
- Almost always work indoors. Those who work with farm products or sporting goods may work outdoors.
- May share work space with others.
- Must fully complete and be exact in their work. Buyers and purchasing agents must evaluate materials carefully to see if they are right for their products. Errors could seriously endanger the users of their products.
- Repeat the same mental tasks.
- Regularly make decisions that affect others as well as their own company's reputation and performance. They sometimes act independently, but usually take recommendations from others first before deciding what to do.
- Usually set their daily tasks and goals without talking to a supervisor first.
- Work in a moderately competitive atmosphere.
- Must meet strict weekly deadlines.
- May work part time or full time.
- Usually work more than 40 hours a week to meet special sales or deadlines.
- Often work evenings and weekends. This overtime is more common before holiday seasons.
- May travel several days a month. Purchasers for large manufacturers and retailers may travel outside of the country. Fashion buyers may also travel internationally.
Physical Work Conditions
In a typical work setting, people in this career:
- Sit at desks for long periods of time.
- Repeat the same movements.
- Use hands to handle, control, or feel objects, tools, or controls.
- Speak clearly so listeners can understand.
- Understand the speech of another person.
- See details of objects that are less than a few feet away.
- See details of objects that are more than a few feet away.
- Hold the arm and hand in one position or hold the hand steady while moving the arm.
- See differences between colors, shades, and brightness.
- Use hands or fingers to grasp, move, or assemble objects.
People in this career frequently:
It is important for people in this career to be able to:
It is not as important, but still necessary, for people in this career to be able to:
Source: Minnesota Department of Education.