Yvonne Yung (below), a partner of Tsim Sha Tsui boutique Ladies Wardrobes, makes regular buying trips to South Korea to look for fashionable outfits. She says that buyers seldom stay in the office, and that the opportunity to visit different places makes it a dream job for many.
"To be able to look for suitable products, buyers need to keep up-to-date with trends. They need a strong fashion sense which is developed through reading fashion magazines, online research and, most importantly, attending fashion shows," says Yung.
Companies that sell multiple labels are the biggest employers of fashion buyers in Hong Kong. "Most of the training is provided in-house. Employers tend to welcome graduates from overseas universities who have training in fashion consulting. Having international experience and a good command of English certainly helps a buyer during buying trips," she adds.
Buyers must have a university degree. But more importantly, they should know about textiles and clothing. They must be good with numbers, and have strong negotiation skills, as they are responsible for long-term buying strategies and negotiating contractual terms with suppliers.
Newcomers begin as assistants responsible for paperwork, and learn from senior buyers before they themselves can go on buying trips. The steps on the career ladder are buyer, senior buyer and buyer manager.
The working hours of fashion buyers tend to be unstable. "When I go on buying trips to South Korea, I usually work overnight because the fashion wholesale mall there opens at nine at night and finishes at noon the next day," says Yung.
She sees a bright future for the fashion buying industry in Hong Kong, due to it being a shopping paradise.