Retail managers are responsible for the day-to-day running of a store, with the aim of maximising profits, while minimising costs

As a retail manager, you'll manage the daily operations of a store or department and will have employees reporting to you. You'll report to an area manager.

You'll ensure promotions are run accurately and to the company's standards and make sure that staff are all working towards the target for the day. It's also your job to ensure that excellent customer care standards are always met.


As a retail manager, you'll need to:

  • manage and motivate a team to increase sales and ensure efficiency
  • manage stock levels and make key decisions about stock control
  • analyse sales figures and forecast future sales
  • analyse and interpret trends to facilitate planning
  • use IT software programs to record sales figures, analyse data and forward plan to record sales figures, analyse data and forward plan
  • deal with staffing issues such as interviewing potential staff, conducting appraisals and performance reviews
  • provide or organise training and development
  • ensure standards for quality, customer service and health and safety are met
  • resolve health and safety, legal and security issues
  • respond to customer complaints and comments
  • organise special promotions, displays and events
  • attend and chair meetings
  • update colleagues on business performance, new initiatives and other pertinent issues
  • tour the sales floor regularly, talking to colleagues and customers and identifying or resolving urgent issues
  • deal with sales, as and when required
  • maintain awareness of market trends in the retail industry, understanding forthcoming customer initiatives and monitoring what competitors are doing
  • initiate changes to improve the business, such as revising opening hours to ensure the store can compete effectively in the local market
  • promote the organisation locally by liaising with local newspapers and the community in general
  • deal with other aspects of the business, such as customer service, finance, human resources, information technology, logistics or marketing - whether you need to do this will depend on the size of the store.


  • Salaries for assistant positions generally range between £19,000 and £25,000.
  • With a few years' experience salaries can reach £25,000 to £40,000, depending on the organisation.
  • With more experience, and especially in area manager roles, salaries of £40,000 to £80,000+ can be achieved 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 discounts, private healthcare, professional qualifications, gym membership and travel subsidies.

Income figures are intended as a guide only.

Working hours

In the retail sector, the normal working week can exceed 40 hours. During peak periods such as Christmas, sales and other seasonal holidays, managers may work more than 40 hours.

Many retail stores operate in out-of-town sites and are open seven days a week. This means that there is a requirement to work irregular hours including late nights, weekends and bank holidays. Many organisations offer competitive annual leave entitlement. In addition, career breaks or job-sharing opportunities are also available for store managers.

What to expect

  • Retail is a fast-paced environment and managers must react to consumer's demands and industry trends. Because of this, there is an element of pressure.
  • Most companies have a dress code, with fashion retailers offering employees a substantial discount to wear their merchandise on a seasonal basis.
  • 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 UK Franchise Directory, small traders can find the competition very tough.
  • Travel away from your store base is usually just for meetings and training events.


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

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

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 postgraduate courses in retail management.

Entry without a 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.


You'll need:

  • 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 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.

A useful approach if you have a particular desire to work for a specific retailer, is to contact the manager of your nearest store to request work shadowing. This is a great way to learn how your chosen retailer operates and will be a huge help on your CV when it comes to applying for an actual role. Plus, making contacts within an organisation will usually increase your chances of being selected during recruitment if an employer already knows you to be hard-working and reliable.

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.


There are over 300,000 retail outlets in the UK. It employs over three million people representing over 8% of all UK jobs.

Typical employers include:

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

Look for job vacancies at:

Specialist recruitment agencies such as C2Recruitment and Michael Page handle vacancies within the retail sector. CASTUK deals with many related retail management positions.

Competition is fierce, with some companies receiving thousands of applicants for several hundred vacancies. Be aware that closing dates for some training schemes can be as early as December or January, with the aim to start the following September (some close earlier when they have reached their applicant quota), so you'll 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.

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 experience or work shadowing, with supplementary courses and workshops.

Short courses may offer:

  • training on 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'll be expected to drive your own future in accordance with the needs of the business.

Companies may also support trainees to get 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'll also be expected to contribute to your own career development.

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

Progression typically includes:

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

In some organisations, graduates run their own departments within weeks and can manage 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.

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