The secret life of buyers…

My day job is complicated.  When people ask what I do for Target and I reply “I’m a buyer”, I usually get a puzzled expression followed by a game face that says, “Oh wow so interesting but I’m totally confused by what you actually do.”  Since the role “buyer” is surmised into one neat compact five letter word, I try and keep my explanation brief.  “I buy small kitchen appliances  – i.e., when you shop Target and you’re under the big red sign that says   K I T C H E N, there’s about 4 aisles where all the stuff on the shelf was put there by me”.  That’s when I usually get the “oh wows”, “fun!”, “cOOoOol”, or my ever favorite – “Wait.  But you don’t cook… Like, ever.” {while this is partially true, I pinky swear I test A LOT of my products… and then supplement my culinary user error with real data and insight from actual guests + industry experts… don’t worry, I know what I’m doing.}

And while it would be easy to assume that such a complex gig would leave little room for anything else; au contraire.  The beauty of Target’s philosophy on work | life balance is that the “work” side needs its own balance too.  Instead of spending every working hour focused on the same task list + an ever-expanding inbox, Target has countless ways to round out the day through what I like to call – the extracurriculars.  A quick peek at the events calendar or RedTalk {our internal social network- think Twitter for business} and you can tap into professional clubs, alumni groups, volunteering, sports networks, diversity councils, and a bazillion common interest communities.  You know how people ask if there’s an app for that?  At Target HQ, there is a group for that {Bow Tie Tuesdays, anyone??}.  Some extracurriculars are opt-in and open to all, and others are generated through personal networks or recommendations.

My current list of extracurriculars include a few you have already heard about : recruiting events, Toastmasters, mentorship, and alumni networks.  One that you haven’t heard about and that is quickly becoming a fav is my work on a multichannel work stream.

Multichannel at Target is all about developing innovative solutions and creating a seamless + integrated shopping experience anytime, anywhere.  It’s no secret that multichannel retailing is evolving faster than any other chapter in retail history.  While there are plenty of team members + job functions dedicated to multichannel initiatives full-time, there are also focused work streams designated to explore, test, and scale specific concepts.

I can’t reveal all the secret sauce of my particular work stream, but I can say this – I’m grateful for the opportunity because it stretches my brain in a completely different way.  My role is smaller due to how separate this work is from my day job… but twice a week I kick-it with our work stream lending a merchant perspective aaaaand flexing all the nerdiness I gathered from business school {or fine, the nerdiness that got me into business school}.

Most of my time as a buyer is spent on things I make happen – for instance, I know what will be on the small appliance shelf in Holiday 2014 because I already put it there.  The multichannel work stream on the other hand is all about ideas + strategies that may or may not happen.  It’s an iterative process full of frameworks |white-boarding | brainstorms {captured in the photo above… notice the brainstorm sustenance such as candy, Slinkys, and Post-its}.  We just reached a significant tipping point where soon we’ll be in test + learn mode.  All this for work that we don’t necessarily know what it will look like to the guest come Holiday 2014.  And I thought my day job was complicated!  It’s a good reality check.  My job is complicated, but there are plenty of other complex efforts at the enterprise level that keeps Target fresh, innovative, and always delivering on our Expect More. Pay Less. promise.  It’s the extracurriculars and the secret sides to buyerships that help keep things in balance.


Interested in a career in buying, planning and brand management? Search and apply for jobs here.

  • Janet

    April 5th, 2013

    Very cool, but what isn’t when it comes to Target!

  • Tinzing Artmann

    April 5th, 2013

    Good job Jessica!! Your article puts in perspective what “Buyers” really mean in the real world. I had the exact same impression you mentioned in the beginning.. “What?, you buy things for Target. So, I thought, may be you buy stuff for Target like I buy stuff for myself…” But, when I learn about what Buyers really do, it was just mind blowing. You guys are the ones who make Target stand out from other retailers like big W… and others!!

  • Seth

    April 5th, 2013

    Awesome. I too think this guest-to-guest workstream is a great way to flex the brain in a way we don’t always get to. Plus Ann brings tons of Red Bull.

  • Laura

    April 5th, 2013

    The extra-curriculars/captainships are some of the most interesting parts of the job! I love that Target supports and encourages team members to be involved.

  • Erika Shepherd

    April 5th, 2013

    Love it. I’ve been trying to explain what I do for a living for 13 years! I appreciate the help. 🙂