Retail managers are responsible for the day-to-day running of stores or departments. The aim of any retail manager is to maximise profits while minimising costs.

Retail managers ensure promotions are run accurately and to the company's standards. They make sure that staff are all working towards the target for the day and that excellent customer care standards are met at all times.

Depending on the size of the store, and company structure, retail managers may also be required to deal with:

  • customer service;
  • finance;
  • human resources;
  • information technology;
  • logistics;
  • marketing.

Responsibilities

These can vary according to the size of the store but typically involve:

  • managing and motivating a team to increase sales and ensure efficiency;
  • managing stock levels and making key decisions about stock control;
  • analysing sales figures and forecasting future sales;
  • analysing and interpreting trends to facilitate planning;
  • using information technology to record sales figures, for data analysis and forward planning;
  • dealing with staffing issues such as interviewing potential staff, conducting appraisals and performance reviews, as well as
  • providing or organising training and development;
  • ensuring standards for quality, customer service and health and safety are met;
  • resolving health and safety, legal and security issues;
  • responding to customer complaints and comments;
  • organising special promotions, displays and events;
  • attending and chairing meetings;
  • updating colleagues on business performance, new initiatives and other pertinent issues;
  • touring the sales floor regularly, talking to colleagues and customers and identifying or resolving urgent issues;
  • maintaining awareness of market trends in the retail industry, understanding forthcoming customer initiatives and monitoring what local competitors are doing;
  • initiating changes to improve the business, e.g. revising opening hours to ensure the store can compete effectively in the local market;
  • promoting the organisation locally by liaising with local schools, newspapers and the community in general;
  • dealing with sales, as and when required.

Salary

  • Typical starting salaries range between £20,000 and £30,000 but depending on the organisation, this can vary significantly.
  • Assistant positions generally range between £17,000 and £23,000.
  • With experience, salaries can rise to £35,000 to £60,000 or even up to £70,000 in larger shops or supermarkets.

Some retailers offer bonuses or share offers, which can increase the amount payable, as well as other benefits such as pension schemes, company car, staff discount, private healthcare, professional qualifications training, gym membership and travel subsidies.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

Within retail, the normal working week can exceed 40 hours. However, during peak periods such as Christmas, sales and other seasonal holidays many managers may work longer than 40 hours.

Many retail stores operate in out-of-town sites and open seven days a week. This means that there is a requirement to work irregular hours including late nights, weekends and bank holidays.

What to expect

  • Many organisations offer competitive annual leave entitlement. In addition, career breaks or job-sharing opportunities are also available for store managers.
  • Many companies require their managers to be flexible with their mobility, however this tends to be done on a regional basis and relocation will always be discussed.
  • Self-employment and franchising are possible. However, in spite of support from trade organisations such as the National Skills Academy for Retail and The UK Franchise Directory, small traders can find the competition very tough.
  • Retail is a fast-paced environment and managers have to react to consumer's demands and industry trends. Because of this, there is an element of pressure.
  • Working hours tend to be long and can impact on your personal life. However, it is rare for a retail manager to have to travel away from their store base, except for meetings and training events.
  • Overseas travel is uncommon.
  • Most companies have a dress code, with fashion retailers offering employees a substantial discount to wear their merchandise on a seasonal basis.

Qualifications

Although this area of work is open to all graduates, an HND or degree in the following subjects may increase your chances:

  • accounting and finance;
  • business studies;
  • fashion management;
  • marketing;
  • retail management.

However, there may be exceptions where the retailer is a specialist in its field and a more relevant HND or degree may be preferred.

A pre-entry postgraduate qualification is not usually required, although a proportion of retail managers do undertake relevant postgraduate study. Search for postgraduate courses in retail management.

Entry without an HND or degree is possible.

Retailers look for certain personal qualities during the recruitment process, such as people skills, confidence, enthusiasm and good customer service values. These traits tend to be favoured over academic qualifications.

Many companies expect applicants to have some retail experience whether acquired through part-time or holiday work. Alternatively, larger retailers offer placements for students, which frequently lead to job offers.

Skills

You will need to show evidence of the following:

  • effective leadership and the ability to motivate others;
  • the ability to plan and prioritise workloads and delegate accordingly;
  • customer focus;
  • the capacity to grasp new concepts quickly;
  • the ability to multi-task and work under pressure;
  • shrewd business sense and a well-developed commercial awareness;
  • a desire to work as part of a team to generate fresh and innovative ideas.

Work experience

If you want to work in the retail industry, you need to get some work experience. As well as paid employment, you may also wish to consider voluntary work at local charity shops or similar experiences. You may be involved in a variety of different roles like stock management, pricing, merchandising, finance and customer service.

Alternatively, if there is a specific retailer you wish to work for, contact the local manager to request work shadowing, although be aware that many managers are very busy and may not be able to accommodate your request. Others may offer you another level of management to shadow, such as a supervisor or an assistant manager.

Remember all experience is good experience and if you later apply to the organisation the manager may be involved in the recruitment process.

Employers

There are approximately 287,000 retail outlets in the UK, in an industry worth around £320 billion. Typical employers include:

  • high street department stores;
  • specific product-led retailers, e.g. clothing, shoes, food and drink, sporting goods, electrical goods, furniture and furnishings;
  • niche retailers;
  • mail order companies;
  • online sellers;
  • television shopping channels;
  • general discounters;
  • supermarkets;
  • home improvement stores.

Look for job vacancies at:

Retail recruitment agencies are increasingly important. You can find details via Retail Human Resources.

Competition is steep, with some companies having thousands of applicants for several hundred spaces. Be aware that closing dates for some training schemes can be as early as December or January to start the following September (some close earlier when they have reached their applicant quota), so you will need to prepare early.

Selection techniques in the industry are generally sophisticated and often based on online application procedures and assessment centres, which usually involve group exercises, presentations and psychometric testing.

You may find it worthwhile to try speculative applications to smaller and independent companies.

Get more tips on how to find a job, create a successful CV and cover letter, and prepare for interviews.

Professional development

Many of the larger retail companies have dedicated training stores. Graduate schemes are often well structured and cover all areas of retailing within the store. You may be assigned a mentor who is an experienced manager and who will oversee your training, offering support and guidance.

Training programmes are normally in-house and combine practical on-the-job, or work shadowing experience, with supplementary courses and workshops.

Short courses may offer:

  • technical aspects, such as accounts;
  • interpersonal training, such as coaching and mentoring;
  • structured behavioural training in influencing or facilitation skills.

Training programmes aim to give you an overview of the company through exposure to the various retailing areas. The length of training varies between nine months and three years. Many training programmes are flexible and can be tailored to your requirements; you will be expected to drive your own future in accordance with the needs of the business.

Companies may also support trainees in gaining further professional qualifications related to specific disciplines.

Career prospects

Most retail companies tend to review employees performance annually. Appraisals are an opportunity to discuss your progress with your line manager and consider what you want to achieve in the year ahead. Development is a two-way process, and you will also be expected to make a contribution to your own career development.

Promotion often requires mobility, and if you are working for a smaller chain there may be fewer promotional opportunities.

Typical progressions may include:

  • moving to a larger store, possibly in another part of the country;
  • managing a larger department;
  • moving to an assistant store manager role.

With some organisations, graduates are running their own departments within weeks and managers of smaller stores within 18 months.

Within three to five years, you can potentially move into senior retail management positions. You may use this store experience to manage larger and more complicated store environments or to progress into regional management.

The flexibility and size of many retail organisations means that it is possible to move into more specialist areas of the business and head office functions, such as customer service, training and operations management. You can also move between different types of retailers or to a wholesale supplier.