Be an effective retail manager

Being an effective manager in retail is tough. Learn about the variety of challenges you'll need to prepare for.

Be an effective retail manager

How do retail managers learn to be effective? Unlike managers in some other industries, comparatively few retail managers have degrees in management. Nevertheless, they face a variety of challenges in a fast-paced, competitive environment, especially if they're working for one of the top 100 retailers.

Key challenges for retail managers

A retail manager's goal is to maximize productivity. This is tough. Store staffs likely include inexperienced, part-time or seasonal employees. Retail hours are long. Sales targets may seem unreachable. Yet, in this setting, good retail managers thrive. They are skilled in four primary areas.

  • Managing time
  • Recruiting and supervising staff
  • Building skilled and motivated sales and service teams
  • Managing change

No manager can be effective in just one of these areas. They are interrelated and interdependent.

Time—a fixed resource

Tight budgets. Lean staff. Information overload. It's never been harder for retail managers. Those who manage time well can do these things:

  • Know when to solve a problem immediately, when to put something off and when to delegate
  • Eliminate time wasters
  • Handle interruptions
  • Say "no" to unreasonable demands

How to lead, not just manage, staff

Effective retail managers encourage and facilitate self-management among their personnel. They do this by:

  • Communicating and evaluating performance standards by focusing on specific behaviors and outcomes
  • Using appropriate reinforcement techniques
  • Gaining commitment to performance goals
  • Maintaining an atmosphere that values sharing information in downward, upward and peer-to-peer directions
  • Coaching for results
  • Setting realistic goals and follow-up dates

Teamwork lightens the load

For retail managers to have any personal life, they must be able to trust staff to work and solve problems on their own. Skilled managers continually work at:

  • Delegating responsibility
  • Establishing group goals
  • Aligning staff people and their roles so that cross-training and cooperation can thrive
  • Identifying and securing resources so people can do their jobs well
  • Motivating the team to work together and support each other even in stressful times
  • Leveraging individual differences and valuing diversity

In retail, change is a given

Change in retailing is what drives success. Styles change. Customer needs and wants evolve. Competitors jockey for market leadership. Retail management means managing change by:

  • Anticipating change
  • Leading group problem solving
  • Managing transition
  • Championing innovation
  • Reducing resistance to change

Retailers value training

According to a study released at the National Retail Federation's 90th Annual Convention, management skills are the most frequently addressed training subject of US retail companies.

"As retailers expand, acquire properties, reposition or rebrand, managers become the critical players in communicating and instilling change throughout the organization," stressed Michael Patrick, CEO of MOHR Learning, the company that conducted the study. "Clearly retailers want to make sure their managers have the skills needed to do this job."

Leadership is not just for top management

The good retail manager learns to move from a focus on day-to-day activities to focus on implementing strategies as a leader who's responsible for moving the organization into the future.

If this is your dream, learn and practice the skills to move your team or department forward decisively and productively.