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Behind the Big Brown Bag:
Columbia Women's Business Society Shares All
Monday, September 26, 2011
By Jane Dong
Think the retail business may be for you? Read about the way it works at the prestigious department store, Bloomingdale's!
As one of the largest pre-professional societies on campus, the Columbia Women’s Business Society tries to host a variety of exciting and informative events. With Columbia and Barnard’s proximity to Wall Street, it is inevitable that many of our events are geared towards finance. However, one of our first events of the year was a discussion with successful women in the retail business. During our Bloomingdale’s event, we had Columbia Business School alumna come and speak to us about their job as buyers and how they got to where they are today.
Buyers work on marketing and public relations, but are mainly focused on product assortment. They set buying strategies many months in advance and try to predict future trends so they can purchase the best items. It is a job that requires a combination of quantitative skills and creativity. The Bloomingdale’s buyer will manage relationships with suppliers such as Michael Kors and Ralph Lauren as well as determine budgets and collections in order to maximize profit. All buyers are based in New York and have a great deal of power in that they determine which types of clothing will get sent to the different stores. In order to become a buyer, one must go through a full-time program, starting as an assistant buyer.
Assistant buyers also have a say in what the department store purchases for its clientele. Often, they are given 2-5 million dollars and told to allocate it to either a certain brand or a specific type of clothing. After about 12-18 months as an assistant buyer, one can become a planner and examine more of the financial side of the business. Eventually, the person will work his/her way up and become a buyer.
They want YOU:
Being an assistant buyer at Bloomingdale’s doesn’t require a certain major, and hiring is done mostly based on "soft" skills since the actual skills you need will be taught either during your internship training or the full 10 week training program all new employees go through. Another major perk? It is also one of the few big companies that allows interns and new employees to interact with the President and other top executives.
Anyone interested in retail should definitely look into Bloomingdale’s program for buyers. People like Andrea Jung, the CEO of Avon, and Mickey Drexler, the CEO of J. Crew started out working at Bloomingdale’s as buyers. Columbia University definitely has some future CEOs in the making, we'll add our names to this impressive list very soon!