What is the difference between a purchasing agent and a print buyer?

Answered by Suzanne Morgan, founder, Print Buyers Online.com

What is the difference between a purchasing agent and a print buyer?


Generally speaking, purchasing agents are responsible for buying many products and services – many of which have set specifications and are not custom-manufactured. In addition, most of the items a purchasing agent is responsible for have a limited ordering and manufacturing workflow. The talents and skills of a purchasing agent may be more attuned to a different or more structured approach to buying.

On the other hand, print buyers generally are responsible for buying printing and graphic services – many of which can have a very complex order and manufacturing system that involves many "producers" including creatives, production managers, designers, printers, mailers, etc. Print buyers work with ever-changing workflows and specifications and are often more adept at compromising, being flexible, problem solving and producing custom-manufactured work. Print buyers also tend to be involved more deeply with other departments in the organization whose most important goals may be increasing response rate or building a brand, rather than saving money on items. Print buyers tend to collaborate more with other departments in the development of the specifications and the selection of the supplier.

I am not in any way diminishing the role of a purchasing agent. My point is that the expectations for the position of a purchasing agent vs. a print buyer are often different. I know some purchasing agents that are also excellent print buyers, but sometimes the person or position doesn’t transfer well.


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic, so send me an e-mail titled "print buyer vs. purchasing agent" to Suzanne@e-pbo.com. Please let me know if your comments are for my eyes only or if I can share your thoughts with the e-community.
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