UK fashion buyers and merchandisers are sought overseas

The competitive nature of the market in the UK combined with retail development booming in Europe means skilled fashion buyers and merchandisers, able to relocate, are in demand. Michael Page Buying & Merchandising explores how this could benefit your career.
As a fashion buyer or merchandiser, if you’ve ever considered progressing your career outside the UK, now is an opportune time. All product areas are required but, like in the UK, it’s fashion merchandisers and buyers within technical areas (knitwear, footwear, lingerie) who are most sought-after.
Over the past few years, there has been a consistent demand for UK-based buying and merchandising professionals from established European companies, according to Nicola Wensley, manager of Michael Page Buying & Merchandising. “The value – both skill set and leadership capability – that UK high flyers can bring is recognised by these organisations,” she said.
Buying and merchandising specialists who’ve developed their careers in the UK are particularly attractive to European organisations for a couple of reasons:
1. The UK’s competitive fashion market – The UK high street is saturated and retailers are consciously trying to drive sales and customer loyalty. Buyers and merchandisers working in these businesses are “sharp, switched on, and at the top of their game,” explained Nicola. “European organisations are attracted to these candidates’ ambition, commercial skills and structured grounding and training,” she added. 
2. Merchandising as an established function – Previously, planners played a supporting role in European retail but now companies are seeing the true value of structuring and hiring a merchandising team to mirror and trade alongside the buying team. This has driven the demand for merchandisers and the UK’s merchandising functions can be considered the most developed in Europe.

Benefits for UK-based buyers and merchandisers

Making the decision to relocate internationally is one that should be accompanied by thorough research and planning, but if the decision to explore foreign opportunities is the right one for you, there are several ways in which a move could help develop your skill set and add value to your CV:
  • Process definition – Some functions in European retailers, particularly merchandising, are less mature than their UK counterparts. Getting involved at an early stage gives the opportunity to set up processes and teams from scratch.
  • Growth potential – Given the positive state of many countries in the European retail market, the chance to make more than a marginal impact and drive double-digit growth is a reality.
  • Multi-country and increased product area exposure – Many EU businesses trade across multiple markets, so there is the opportunity for hands-on experience of the variances of different countries. We’ve also noticed higher mobility between different product areas, allowing for a diversification of expertise.
  • Opportunity to influence – Being recruited, out-of-country, for a specific track record and expertise in an area that requires development provides the opportunity to strategise, educate and communicate best practice.
  • Career progression – Many UK businesses encourage employees to gain international exposure as it will add a different perspective and a versatility of skill set to the organisation. Knowledge of markets outside the UK, and an ability to trade in multiple countries is exposure that employers value on a CV. Additionally, there is often the ability to progress more rapidly

Do your research

Different countries are in varying stages of retail development. Western markets are significantly more developed than those in central and eastern Europe. “We’re seeing that due to strong economic growth and a relative lack of international retailers, Germany is one of the most thriving retail markets with a high proportion of brands looking to open/expand within the next few years,” said Nicola. 
“Working in international markets can be very enjoyable, satisfying and lucrative. Ultimately in terms of longer term career progression, if you want to get to the top in an international business, you truly have to understand the global market,” she added.
Michael Page is one of the few truly international recruiters that can provide opportunities for buying and merchandising candidates globally. Our strong relationships with retailers abroad, combined with our UK buying and merchandising capability and our office network spanning 33 countries means that we can support international moves.
For more information on progressing your buying and merchandising career internationally, please get in touch with your local team.
To find out more about relocating for a role, read the advice in our career centre.