Purchasing agents are hired to purchase goods and services for an organization’s use at the lowest cost possible. The purchasing agent's duties include locating the best goods and services for the organization by choosing suppliers, negotiating purchase prices and negotiating contracts to preserve an agreed-upon price for future purchases. Among the different purchasing agent jobs are purchasing agents for farm products, purchasing agents for wholesale and retail goods, buyers and purchasing managers.
A purchasing agent for farm products is responsible for arranging the processing and resale of products that farmers produce. These might include products such as grains, milk, eggs and Christmas trees. The purchasing agent negotiates with farmers regarding items that are purchased for resale in grocery stores or other retail shops.
The duties of a purchasing agent for farm products also include arranging for the transport and storage of the products, reviewing orders and maintaining proper documentation of the business transactions. These purchasing agent jobs also involve keeping track of inventory levels to ensure that products are available to meet consumer demand. In some cases, purchasing agents for farm products also work with farmers regarding the best care techniques for the land and livestock to guarantee that the product supply is of the highest quality.
For purchasing agent jobs involving wholesale and retail goods, the primary duties are similar to those of purchasing agents for farm products. These duties include selecting products, organizing transportation and storage and negotiating contracts. The main difference between the jobs is the type of goods purchased. Merchandise such as furniture, clothing or appliances are purchased directly from manufacturers or wholesale companies and resold through commercial companies and retailers.
Buyers are responsible for selecting the products that a company sells. This requires having an understanding of consumer preferences and spending. Failing to purchase the right products negatively affects the company’s profits and relationship with consumers. Buyers must have a keen knowledge of competitor activities and how economic conditions influence consumers' buying habits. Buyers also keep track of merchandise inventories to ensure that the right products and quantity levels are maintained.
The purchasing manager evaluates potential suppliers to identify which are the best sources for the company. People in these purchasing agent jobs look at a supplier’s prices, selection, availability of goods, service and reliability as well as the quality of the goods. Purchasing managers might also attend conferences and trade shows to meet new suppliers and inspect the services and products offered by suppliers. The advent of globalization requires purchasing managers to also establish relationships with foreign suppliers in order to procure products of a high quality at a low cost to the company.