Career and Job Search Guide

Purchasing Managers, Buyers and Purchasing Agents

Purchasing agents, buyers, and purchasing managers play an important role in a company's supply line. These professionals purchase products to be resold by the company. Wholesale and retail buyers buy products like clothes or stereos to be resold while purchasing agents purchase supplies or materials used for manufacturing. Those specializing in agricultural products buy materials to be used for farming. When making purchases, these specialists must take into account durability, price, product scarcity, and other factors before making purchases since they are constantly seeking reasonably priced, quality products. To achieve this, they must review inventory and sales reports, locate national and international suppliers, and be aware of factors affecting prices and product availability.

At bigger companies specializing in manufacturing, there is a difference between purchasing agents and their manager counterparts. Purchasing agents usually perform routine duties such as focusing on the purchase of specific commodities and monitoring markets. Purchasing managers oversee purchasing agents and take responsibility for large, multifaceted purchases. A workers' title is usually determined by their specialty, business, and job responsibilities.

Purchasing professionals working for government and manufacturing companies are commonly known as contract specialists, or purchasing agents, managers, or directors. These professionals buy a variety of supplies and materials. Those specializing in contracts are known as contract managers. Purchased supplies or materials can include equipment, raw materials, and machinery parts. Purchasing agents employed by government agencies request bids for government contracts and determine which bid to accept. Because of potential conflict of interests, purchasing agents working for government agencies must abide by strict rules when granting contracts. Effective purchasing professionals possess a general knowledge regarding the products they buy.

Merchandise managers or buyers, professionals specializing in finished products to be resold, work for stores and wholesale companies. They play a vital role in the complicated distribution network servicing customers. Wholesale companies buy products from production companies and then resale them to stores and other retailers. Retail companies buy products directly from wholesalers later to be resold to the community. Since merchandise managers are responsible for selecting the goods to be resold, they must understand what interests their customers. If they do not stay up to date with consumers' tastes, their companies could lose money. To maintain sales records, buyers utilize software connected to registers to track purchases. They must also keep a close eye on their competition by monitoring marketing campaigns and prices. Merchandise managers employed by big companies usually develop expertise in specific products, but those at smaller retailers frequently purchase every product sold in the store.

Privately marked products and the merger of purchasing departments have added to the duties for retail buyers. Privately marked products, merchandise developed for a specific store, mandates buyers to collaborate with their suppliers to design the goods they desire. Staff decreases in buying departments have led to increased responsibilities for buyers since fewer employees are available to assist them.

Merchandise managers frequently plan and coordinate company promotions with the assistance of merchandise executives. They also meet with the marketing team to develop ads for the promotion and select the medium to market products, such as TV, magazine, or internet ads. Moreover, merchandise managers frequently spend time in the store to make sure products are displayed in prime locations. They also communicate frequently with company management to discuss with them products in demand. Merchandise managers sometimes hire assistants to execute their sales orders.

Determining good suppliers is a vital responsibility for purchasing managers. Since many companies have tight production schedules, they must find vendors to accommodate their last minute needs as not to hold up production. To learn about vendors, purchasing managers can review trade journals, industry magazines, and conduct research over the internet. They can also spend time at conventions and trade shows to expand contacts with vendors and learn about industry changes. Purchasing managers can also learn more about distribution companies by interviewing company representatives. Purchasing professionals must locate reliable vendors. After research has been finalized, purchasing managers begin doing business with vendors best suited for their company. Most firms make automated purchases and monitor purchases with their vendors via the web.

Purchasing specialists access information about prices, purchase reports, and specific commodity information utilizing computer systems. These systems have made it possible to make quick, specific purchases, so buyers can spend their time conducting analytical work. Signing extended period contracts with vendors is a strategy employed by buyers desiring to conduct business with fewer vendors. Since many purchases are made from international vendors, purchasing agents frequently travel to foreign countries. It is therefore useful for them to speak foreign languages and understand foreign cultures.

Alterations in business operations have changed the customary duties of supply management professionals in various occupation fields. Production companies are now involving buyers in all phases of manufacturing since they can estimate prices and scarcity for raw materials. To avoid supply problems, more companies involve staff from purchasing divisions during the initial phases of product development.

Purchasing professionals frequently work in teams while making purchases, a process commonly referred to as team buying. Before supply purchases, purchasing managers may meet with engineers to discuss whether the supplies they plan to buy are best suited for a particular project, or they could discuss raw material shipment difficulties with managers employed in the receiving division.