Retail Buyer: Job Profile

Steven Wallace>>My name’s Steve Wallace,
I’m the grocery, beers wines and spirits buyer for Sainsbury’s for Scotland and for
Northern Ireland. My role is to find the best products we can find in Scotland. It’s looking
for quality products that we can sell or our customers demand, it’s looking for different
and exciting ideas within the marketplace. The best part of the job, I would say, would
be when you’re giving a big new contract or a new listing to, in particular, a small
supplier because that’s where it means jobs. You could list a product in 20 or 30 stores,
it could mean an extra five or six jobs at that particular supplier, so that’s always
a good good moment. Your decisions in your everyday job, from seeing the quality products
to listing them on your shelves, that affects jobs and communities, it goes all the way
down the chain. Sometimes you can underestimate the importance you can have to different suppliers
and actually to employment, so it’s absolutely fundamental, it helps the whole Scottish food
industry. My least favourite part of the job is the administration, the spreadsheets and
deadlines surrounding the job. There are great fun parts to the job about seeing great products,
great suppliers, but actually there’s a lot of time needs to be spent doing the number
crunching analysis, it’s a boring part but it needs to be done, it’s all part of the
job. I think you need to have a good eye for a product, you need to be very patient, you
need to be good at communicating because we have to communicate within our retail side
and our head office, government bodies, all sorts of suppliers and other people, so being
a key communicator is absolutely essential. I got to this position really by working in
the retail industry for a long time. From pushing trollies in Tesco when I was 15, I’ve
worked for Tesco’s, for Sainsbury’s, I went to Sainsbury’s as a trainee buyer in
London about 12-13 years ago then went to work for Waitrose as a buyer, then took the
opportunity to come back up to Scotland (because there aren’t many buying jobs in Scotland)
three years ago. The advice I’d give to anyone interested in a career in the food
industry is to get involved with the suppliers at an early age – know your products. So
get a summer job at a local producer or farm, go to college and get your qualifications,
be it relevant to the marketing side or retail, there are all sorts of degrees appropriate
to the industry, and again work in a supermarket. It’s one of those things which funds you
through university, but it gives you that real learning about products and speaking
to customers and helps you understand the whole industry.

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