So you want to be a retail manager? Do you have what it takes?
Retail managers are the people charged with making a store, group of stores or a retail company profitable. They thrive on making it all click week after week and year after year. They are passionate about the products and services their stores offer and care about developing the kind of atmosphere customers will flock to.
Most retail managers develop the following skills before specializing in store operations, buying, planning or any other area:
- Selecting, directing and evaluating personnel.
- Internal layout, store operations and security.
- The buying/procurement process.
- Pricing and selling.
- Advertising, promotion and publicity.
How can you build your skill set to be a retail manager?
Start as a Retail Management Trainee
According to the National Retail Federation, this position is the foot in the door available throughout the retail industry. And, luckily, most well-known retail stores have management training programs.
Training programs usually combine on-the-job training with short courses in special aspects of retailing. Some companies, such as Federated Department Stores, develop separate management training programs for candidates pursuing different career paths. For example, it offers training for store management, purchasing management and a merchandise-planning training program. Other companies have more general programs for management trainees.
Management trainees are paid staff. They receive the same benefits as other employees and work the same hours. Salaries range from $20,000 to $35,000 per year. Sometimes being a management trainee is synonymous with being an assistant manager; the trainee works in the store and reports directly to a department or store manager from day one. These programs heavily emphasize on-the-job training with relatively little classroom time. In other programs, class time is more intensive, especially early in the program. Such programs don't let a trainee out on the floor until he or she has demonstrated a good foundation for the business.
What Do I Need?
Large retailers have formal training programs for managerial candidates. Generally, retailers look for prospects with bachelor's degrees. If you have an associate's degree or a good retail work history, you may also qualify. Entering a management training program can be quite competitive, however, so a degree can give you an edge.
A degree in a business discipline is helpful. But keep this in mind: Retailers are looking for managers with more than knowledge of accounting or management theory. Retail managers have backgrounds ranging from art history to zoology. Some have no college degrees and have worked their way up from the sales floor.
Successful managers are:
- Positive and enthusiastic.
- Energetic and outgoing.
- Hard-working (able and willing to put in long hours).
- Good with people.
- Calm under pressure.
In addition, managers and trainees need to have:
- Effective communication skills.
- Good health and stamina. Retail managers are on their feet and active most of the day.
- Leadership qualities.
- A willingness to relocate (this will enhance career advancement prospects).
Where Do I Start?
Management training positions are posted, and qualified candidates are recruited, just as they are for any other position in retail organizations. Here are some places to look for openings:
- Company Web sites.
- Newspaper classified ads.
- Retail trade publications.
- Internet job sites, like Monster.com.
- College career centers.
- Personnel departments located in retail stores.
- Community job fairs.
- Personal contact with store managers.
As a retail manager, you will want to invest a lot of passion in the store and what you sell to make it a successful experience for the company and yourself. Try looking for opportunities at the places you like to shop.
What Happens in Training?
In most retail management training, candidates are exposed to all facets of the business. Typically, a new trainee will spend six months to three years in various departments to learn the company and industry. For example, a store management trainee receives training in merchandising, finance, marketing, operations and human resources. In the department, the trainee does what the regular staff does. In addition, he or she is groomed to manage the nonmanagement personnel in this department. Many trainees usually work first as sales assistants. Later, they are assigned to various branches or departments as junior managers.
At the end of the training period, trainees are expected to be ready to move into management as either assistant managers or managers. Promotion into management generally occurs after nine months to two years on the job.