Differences between buyers and category managers

Definition: A Buyer is an individual tasked with managing the purchasing process for a good(s) or a service(s) for a company. This includes running the purchase order with a set supplier base. An easy way to describe it is that a Buyer is not tasked with figuring out what to buy or who to buy it from, but how to buy it.

Skills required to be a buyer: attention to detail, strong customer service skills, analytical skills and strength with numbers. Buyers do not need to necessarily have strong understanding of the details of what they buy or the business needs underlying their purchasing activities.

Category Managers:
Category Management is a strategic approach which organises procurement resources to focus on specific areas of spends. This enables category managers to focus their time and conduct in depth market analysis to fully leverage their procurement decisions on behalf of the whole organisation.

The tricky thing is that there are actually at least two different types of Category Managers, depending on the industry: Retail Category

Managers and Indirect Category Managers.

  • Retail Category Managers:
    A Retail Category Manager is a Procurement Professional responsible for a certain category of goods at a retailer (or wholesaler). For example, a supermarket chain may have a Category Manager in charge of produce. They‘re in charge of purchasing those goods from suppliers for sale on store shelves. However, what separates these individuals from Buyers is that Retail Category Managers often have a sales and marketing component to their jobs. They need to help develop the overall retail strategy for that category of goods by looking analytically at current trends, seasonality and other factors – almost like a demand planner. A Retail Category Manager requires lots of foresight to be able to anticipate future trends for a particular category.
  • Indirect Category Managers Definition:
    This role is a very specialized Procurement role in a particular category such as IT, Travel, or Professional Services. Unlike a buyer role, a category manager is strategic, with oversight over the sourcing and procurement process. They‘re managing the company‘s vendor relationships for the particular category. They often need to have specific expertise in their category (for example an IT category manager might have an IT background) because they‘re tasked with deciding what to buy to help the organization achieve its strategic goals – and helping implement those purchases. Their job also involves interaction with a number of internal stakeholders. Skills required to be an Indirect Category Manager: Sourcing, RF(x) expertise, contract
    negotiation, strong communications and relationship building skills, ability to manage vendor relationships, an understanding of service level agreements.
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