5 Things Retail Managers Need to Know

Whether you’re a retail manager, a store owner, or both, chances are you’re wearing a lot of different hats on any given day. You need to be a salesperson that can meet monthly quotas yet be a people person, so customers don’t feel like they’re being ‘sold.’ You need to be a master organizer yet someone that is comfortable rolling with the punches. And your most important job as a retail manager is to be a great leader.  

That’s why we put together this list of five practical retail management tips that will set you up for success.

  1. Be a Leader and a Mentor

We’ve all seen those memes or infographics that compare the differences between a boss and a leader. For those of you who haven’t, it looks a little something like this:

Boss Leader
Drives employees Coaches employees
Places blame for breakdown Fixes the breakdown
Uses people Develops people
Takes credit Gives credit
Knows how it’s done Shows how it’s done
Depends on authority Depends on goodwill
Inspires fear Generates enthusiasm
Says ‘I’ Says ‘we’
Commands something Asks for something
Says ‘go’ Says ‘let’s go’


When you put it down on paper (or screen), you can easily see how one small change in wording can make a significant impact on management style.


What may not be so evident is that with leadership comes mentorship. A mentor is someone who has experience and expertise in their industry and guides those who are inexperienced and less knowledgeable. Whether citing a formal mentorship or not, everyone in a leadership role should consider themselves a mentor to some degree because junior employees look up to you for guidance, and you guessed it, leadership.


Retail is no exception. Most retail managers like yourself didn’t dive into the retail industry with no experience land a management position. Chances are, you started the same way as the new employee you just hired — as a part-time sales associate. Remember what it was like to walk in their shoes. Don’t just be a leader than can look up to, but a mentor that will take them under your wing and show them how to fly.    


  1. Teamwork Makes the Dream work

Operating a retail store isn’t a one-person job — and if you try to do everything yourself, you’ll quickly regret it. That’s why every great retail manager or leader understands the value of teamwork.


Getting your employees on the same page and showing them how to work together to accomplish a common goal will pay dividends when it comes to the overall success of your business. When people work effectively as a team, it creates synergy —  the combined effect of the team is greater than the sum of the individual efforts.


  1. Be Innovative

If managers and small businesses can learn one thing from the recent Toys R Us bankruptcy, it’s that you can never fall behind the technology curve.    

Smack in the middle of the dot-com bubble in January 2000; the toy giant opted to sign a deal with Amazon to exclusively sell toys on their platform rather than build an ecommerce site themselves.


Their failure to see the future power of the internet and online shopping left retailer scrambling to play catch-up when Amazon reneged on their exclusivity agreement. The web giant and toy retailer settled the case in 2009 when Amazon agreed to pay Toys R Us $51 million. But it was too little too late —  the damage had been done.


The point is if there are new tools and technology out there that can expand your reach or help your business run more efficiently, don’t be afraid to experiment. For instance, an online ecommerce store that integrates with your point-of-sale system is a great way to build your web presence with local customers and those that aren’t within driving distance of your storefront. And when was the last time employees ‘punched a clock’ to start their shift? Nowadays, digital time clocks and employee scheduling software are the most efficient methods of employee management.  


  1. The Importance of Good Customer Service

As with all businesses, providing excellent customer service and customer experience are essential if you plan on staying in business for a long time. In fact, 86 percent of buyers will pay more for a better customer experience. This means if you spend a little extra time and money to make sure your customers have a positive experience, it’ll pay dividends.


From an operational perspective, you’ll want to make sure there’s enough staff on schedule to accommodate all your customers during peak times. Nothing is worse for a customer than not being able to find a sales associate if you have a question or waiting for a prolonged period to check out.  


  1. Set Goals and Celebrate Success

Okay, so technically we squeezed two ideas into these last thoughts, but they go hand-in-hand and help sum up a lot of what we’ve discussed in this post. Setting goals and giving employees something to work towards will help create synergy and foster employee engagement. Goals provide a sense of purpose and motivation to conquer the task set before you, so it’s important to set individual goals as well as company-wide goals.


The beauty of goals is that they can be anything. They can be as simple and immediate as increasing sales revenue by $25 from the day before. Or they can be long-term and strategic like gaining 500 new customers for the fiscal year.


Besides setting goals and communicating them effectively, you also need to share the results with your team. If you fell short of expectations, brainstorm ways that will increase your chances of success and make sure the goal was realistic in the first place. Most importantly, when goals are met or exceeded, celebrate with your team. Take a minute and revel in the fact that everyone’s hard work paid off and they achieved what they set out to accomplish.


The Bottom Line

Whether you’re a new retail manager or one with years of experience under your belt, the success of any business starts from the top down — and you’re it, my friend. These five practical tips will help make your retail store a success for years to come.

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