The career of a retail sales manager

Career spotlight: Retail sales manager

Retail sales managers oversee the day-to-day operations of retail stores' sales departments. They make sure customer service representatives, cashiers, and store department managers perform their duties to a high standard and that customers are satisfied with their shopping experiences. Depending on the store and its products, retail sales managers may need specialized knowledge. However, these jobs are often well-suited to candidates with more general backgrounds and retail experience. Consider the responsibilities, skills, and career path retail sales managers take to determine whether a career in retail management is right for you.

What can you expect from a retail sales manager job?

Responsibilities

What does a retail sales manager do? The duties of a retail sales manager can vary dramatically depending on the type of store they work in. For example, the retail sales manager of a car dealership will do significantly different things on a daily basis than the retail sales manager of a fashion boutique. However, a retail sales manager job description usually identifies the following common tasks:

  • Interview, hire, and train new store employees involved in sales
  • Monitor the performance of existing retail sales staff
  • Assign duties to store sales staff
  • Prepare sales staff rosters
  • Answer questions sales that staff have about their duties, rosters, and other aspects of work life
  • Answer complex questions and resolve complaints that other sales staff are unable to solve to the customer's satisfaction
  • Motivate sales staff to deliver excellent customer service, improve their efficiency, and meet sales quotas
  • Counsel sales staff who are unreliable, failing to perform, stealing, or otherwise not complying with company policies and procedures
  • Develop and maintain retail store budgets
  • Monitor inventory levels and order new products as required

Work environment

Retail sales managers work in retail stores. They may work in stores with a large variety of merchandise, such as department stores or supermarkets, or stores specializing in particular items such as electronics or books. Retail sales managers may work in stores selling inexpensive items, such as dollar stores, or in stores selling big-ticket items, such as jewelry stores. Larger stores are more likely to employ retail sales managers than smaller stores.

Retail sales managers may have offices within their stores, but they spend most of their time on the shop floor supervising their staff and ensuring the needs of customers are being met.

The working environments of retail sales managers can be loud and very busy, especially during peak shopping periods such as the weeks leading up to Christmas or sales periods. During these times, retail stores often become high-stress environments.

Schedule

Retail sales managers often work long, irregular hours. They may be required to work shifts during any time their store is open. This means retail sales managers often work on weekends, on public holidays, and during nights when stores have late night trading. Weekends and public holidays are often busy for retailers, so retail sales managers should rarely expect to have these days off.

It's not uncommon for retail sales managers to work longer hours than usual in the store's busiest periods, including the weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and during major store sales. While retail sales managers are entitled to take vacations, it's not unusual for stores to insist their managers are available to work during these busy periods.

What qualifications are required to be a retail sales manager?

Education

Retail sales managers are not usually expected to have any kind of formal qualifications. Many retail sales managers begin their careers as cashiers or customer service representatives, and work their way into a management role after several years of experience. Promoting from within ensures new retail sales managers are familiar with the store's merchandise and policies.

However, as the job market becomes more competitive, it's not uncommon for retail sales managers to hold associate's or bachelor's degrees in one of the following fields:

  • Retail Sales Management
  • Business Studies
  • Marketing
  • Accounting and Finance
  • Fashion Management

The National Retail Foundation also offers retail management certification.

Even with a degree or certification, it's unusual for stores to hire retail sales managers without a background in retail. Many job postings state that retail sales managers must work in retail for between one and five years.

Most retail sales manager jobs also require company-specific training. During this training, new retail sales managers learn about store policies and procedures and how to use store technologies, including cash registers and scanning devices. This training usually features a mix of classroom-based and hands-on instruction. The duration of this training will vary depending on the company.

Experience

Without any requirements for formal education, most stores look to the experience of retail sales managers rather than their qualifications. Experienced retail sales managers understand how retail environments work, how to please customers, and how to motivate their employees to work efficiently and with pleasant demeanors.

It's telling that just 2 percent of retail sales managers have less than a year's experience in their roles. Thirty-one percent of retail sales managers have between 1 and 4 years' work experience, 27 percent have between 5 and 9 years' experience, and 26 percent have between 10 and 19 years' experience. A significant 14 percent of retail sales managers maintain their positions after 20 years.

These numbers show retailers value the experience of their retail sales managers and will happily employ managers of advancing years. This means once you have established yourself as a retail sales manager, you should have ample job opportunities while you wish to remain in the workforce.

Skills

Retail sales managers call on a variety of skills to perform in their roles. Employers look for the following qualities in their prospective retail sales managers:

  • Leadership – As a manager, you must be seen by your staff and customers as the person in charge.
  • Strong communication skills – Retail sales managers spend most of their time speaking to customers and sales staff. They need these skills to make sure conversations are productive for all parties.
  • Customer service – Retail sales managers often deal with customers when they're unhappy or frustrated. Their customer service skills help them change the moods of these disgruntled customers and give them a positive impression of the store.
  • Problem solving – When customers complain about products or service and employees have disputes, retail sales managers must draw on their problem-solving skills to find satisfactory resolutions for parties involved and for the store.
  • Patience – Dealing with demanding customers and difficult workers can be challenging, but patience should help retail sales managers in these circumstances.
  • Motivational – Retail sales managers draw on their motivational abilities to encourage sales staff to meet sales quotas and deliver exceptional customer service.
  • Organization – Organizational skills help retail sales managers determine the duties their employees should complete during each shift.
  • Effective delegation – Retail sales managers must look to their sales teams to effectively run the store. Good retail sales managers know their team members' strengths, which jobs are of the greatest priority, and how best to delegate tasks.
  • Stress management – Retail stores can be stressful environments, so retail sales managers need to know how to cope well with extra pressure.
  • Fast learner – As the retail industry develops, stores often introduce new practices, policies, and technologies. Retail sales managers must adapt to these changes quickly so they can incorporate them confidently into their business practices.

Salary expectations

How much does a retail sales manager make? This depends largely on their experience. Entry level retail sales managers usually earn around $38,000 a year. As they gain experience, the salaries of retail sales managers typically increase to an average $44,811 per year, or $13 per hour. Experienced retail sales managers can earn much more in some other U.S. job markets. For example, the average annual salary for a recruiter is $56,098 in Houston, Texas; $54,945 in New York City, New York; and $52,539 in Los Angeles, California.

Job outlook for retail sales managers

Projected growth

The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts job opportunities for all sales managers, including retail sales managers, will grow by 5 percent in the period between 2014 and 2024. This growth should see 19,000 more sales manager jobs created in the United States during this period. This is as fast as the average growth for all industries.

Career trajectory

Working as a retail sales manager is seen as the last step up the retail career ladder by many retail workers. For this reason, many retail sales managers stay in this role for decades. However, if you're a retail sales manager looking for a new challenge there are still some careers available to you.

You may consider becoming a retail store manager, supervising not just the sales staff but also administrative, warehouse, and other professionals. Many retail sales managers also become regional sales managers, who oversee a number of retail stores in a local area.

Working as a retail sales manager presents an excellent opportunity for leaders who thrive in busy working environments. This type of management role would also suit anyone committed to customer service and looking to take the next step in their retail career. Start searching for your ideal retail sales manager job today.