Inside Retail Manager Careers

Things you need to know, but nobody tells you

Biggest Surprises

"Interact With Wide Variety Of People...
What surprised me most is how different each day is, no two days are ever quite the same mostly due to the different people which you interact. Working with the public can be both rewarding and frustrating, but you can also make a lot of new friends this way as well." (Sales Manager; 2013)

Career: 3 years of experience, currently based in Washington, male
School: Studied Business at Antonelli College in Mississippi; completed Certificate degree in 1999

"A Support System Is Very Important For The Success Of A Business...
Most people would be surprised how important networking and word of mouth promotion is for the success of a small business. A business can be successful with the right kind of support system of people and relations. And without some sort of support system a business can fail very quickly." (Shop Owner/Manager; 2014)

Career: 2 years of experience, currently based in Missouri, female
School: Studied Fashion Design at Missouri State University in Missouri; completed Bachelor degree in 2009

"The Benefits And People Are Great...
The people were very nice when I started. I also was very surprised with Publix's expansive benefits." (Customer Service Team Leader; 2013)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Georgia, male
School: Studied Business Management at Ohio State in Ohio; completed Associate degree in 2012

"Good Marketing For Smart Customers...
As a marketer in the retail industry, I was surprised at the immense power to convince people to waste money on things and services they don't need. This caused a personal dissatisfaction with my job. It is sad to watch people fill their lives with things, instead of experiences. Luckily, marketing is a skill that can also be used for immense good to help charities, non-profits, and eco companies. I have watched a growth of conscientious business practices due to customer demand over the past 10 years. These good business practices are changing the direction of marketing. Not only do you have to bring customers to your business, but you have to appeal to smart, earth/health conscious customers." (Retail Management; 2014)

Career: 8 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied Marketing Management at Florida Atlantic University in Florida; completed Associate degree in 2001

"Making Money...
I currently sell vintage and antique items on etsy and ebay. I was amazed that I could actually make money doing this. That if you choose your merchandise wisely there is a buyer for just about anything. I enjoy the job to a certain extent but do not consider it challenging enough and the amount of time that goes into it does not make it rewarding enough." (Online Retailer; 2012)

Career: 1 years of experience, currently based in Florida, female
School: Studied History And Philosophy at Mount Mary College in Wisconsin; completed Bachelor degree in 1987

Best & Worst Things About This Career

Merchandising Execution Supervisor: "The best part about my career is participating in the evolution of a pilot program. For example, when I started I had a three person team in one store than has expanded to a 20 person team that travels to six different stores. I also enjoy the fact that new projects are to be completed everyday, giving me variety day in and day out. The worst part of my career is dealing with HR related issues for the team. Since I supervise a mostly remote team (meaning we are a separate entity than either store or corporate associates) the HR issues rarely have a standard operating procedure to follow." (2011)

Retail Manager: "Just as there are very rude customers at times, there are customers that are very friendly. I have made many friends there through the years. Also, the owner can only afford to pay one worker at a time, so if it is your shift, you'll be the only person there for that shift. It is all up to you to get everything finished before your shift is over, all while you handle customers in a friendly manner. This is especially hard for me because I am the only other worker that does the paperwork, so I get triple the work and no extra time to get it all done." (2011)

Retail Merchandising Manager: "My job as department manager is very rewarding. It gives me a feeling of pride when I have helped my customers and merchandised in a way to increase store sales. I also enjoy the challenge of delegating tasks to my sales associates in order to meet management directives. The worst thing about the job is that sometimes I will be given numerous notes from upper management which are expected to be completed by the end of that day. This takes away from my own control over the department and puts on hold any projects I wanted to work on." (2011)

Retail Assistant Manager: "We have a lot of associates who practice bad habits that end up costing the store extra money, and I find myself constantly having to hold one-on-one conferences with associates about these habits that they have developed. One of the parts that I love is having that one-on-one time with associates. It is a great time to build up the team morale and build relationships. I also have the tedious but fun task of rebuilding a system of best practice that is more efficient and fun for associates to follow." (2011)

Restaurant Manager: "The best part of the job is working with people. Both employees and customers are fun to interact with. I like to be able to satisfy the needs of others and to find ways to overcome problems. Getting a successful resolution to a problem is sometimes challenging, but it is always exciting. The worst part of the job is the hours. The business requires a person to work many weekends and nights. It is not a nine to five job and this means it is more difficult to spend time with family." (2011)

Part-Time Retail Manager: "The worst part about retail is the stress level. If you are content working as an associate and not as a manager, then it is less stressful than many jobs. However, if you are ambitious and want to move forward in your career, it is difficult to let go, and work often becomes stressful. The best part is getting to see regulars come in. It's really nice to get to know the usual crowd that comes to see you at your store." (2011)

Retail Store Manager: "The best part about being a retail manager is the excitement of running a business. It is similar to having one's own business without the investment risk. Another great aspect is that every day is different. The hours and the customers vary so my workday is always interesting and I am rarely bored. The worst part about being a retail manager is being required to work weekends. I am required to work Friday night and then open the store and work all day on Saturday." (2011)

Assistant Manager - Retail Store: "Without question the best part of my job is the fact that my store manager is a good team builder. He has assembled a team of people who work hard, who work well together, and who take pride and ownership in the store. Having good employees who show up on time and work hard makes my job much easier. I can spend less time on telling people what to do and more time on projects around the store because I am confident that people under me are doing their jobs, whether I am there or not. The two worst parts of the job are the pay, which is dismally low, and the company I work for, which is bureaucratic, slow, and unappreciative. The company does not pay well at all and treats even good employees who have been with the company for years with suspicion and distrust." (2011)

Retail Supervisor: "I have a great career. For someone like me that couldn't stand sitting at a desk for 40 hours per week, this is an awesome job. You're constantly moving and seeing new faces daily. The best part is seeing satisfied customers return. You interact and build a relationship with them that makes you feel good about your role in their shopping experience. With the job comes a lot responsibility, a lot of projects, and little time in which to do them. This can be frustrating but you quickly learn to adjust to all of the changes." (2011)

Senior Merchandise Manager: "The best part of the job is that each day is different. It is not often that I come in and have to do the same job two days in a row. I also enjoy the people I work with and the other managers on our staff. My hours are very family friendly and flexible, allowing me to be home with my children when I need to be. The worst part of the job is having to answer to several people from the store manager on up, when they aren't always on the same page. It makes for extra work and a level of frustration, but nothing unexpected." (2010)

Theatre Manager: "The best part is that I am always busy. I deal with different people and different issues nearly every day on the job. I also get to view movies periodically. I like the fact that my schedule changes from day to day as well. Some days I work 9 to 5 and other days I go in at 5PM and work until we close around 1AM (or sometimes even 3AM). It is tough working with so many employees, many of whom have never held a job before and it is vitally important that they learn how to properly represent the company and treat its customers with respect." (2010)

Store Manager: "The best part of my job is the flexibility of being in charge. I can make my own hours for the most part and am my own boss. I am given lots of freedom and only seldom do I have to answer to my regional manager. As long as my store is doing well I am left alone. The worst part of my job is the hours. The hours can be long. It is often difficult to keep the store staffed with good quality help. Often I am forced to employ teenagers who seem to care little about the job and are not reliable. During the holiday weeks I am often forced to work the most. The time when you would most like to spend with family are the times when you are required to be on the job. Theft can be a big problem too, both from employees and outsiders. I have been robbed on multiple occasions, including once at gunpoint But criminals aren't the only problem. Customers can be very demanding and unreasonable. Often they can be loud and rude and difficult to pacify." (2009)

Career Background

Retail Manager

  Job Tasks
  Work Environment
  How to Prepare for the Job
  Job Outlook

Career Video

Career Tips

"Advice For Marketing Majors...
Focus. Marketing is needed in all industries, so try to focus on an industry you are particularly interested in." (Retail Management; 2014)

"Have A Financial Back-Up Plan...
If you want to start your own business, make sure you either have excellent financial backing or keep a part-time job which can support you until your business starts making a profit." (Shop Owner/Manager; 2014)

"Knowledge Of Languages And Personality Types Is Helpful...
If you want to be successful in retail, you should be able to handle stress really well and be very patient with many different personality types. It would also be good to know an extra language or two because many of the best customers are visitors from other countries." (Sales Manager; 2013)

"Don't Be Complacent...
I would say to constantly try to improve upon yourself, never let yourself become just okay." (Customer Service Team Leader; 2013)

"Any Major Will Do...
If pursuing a job in corporate retail, the subject you major in is not as important as your performance in obtaining your B.S. You must always be ready and willing to relocate if you want to move up rapidly. If you limit yourself to one geographic location you will have fewer opportunities come along. Always learn jobs that are 'horizontal' to your own so you are well rounded for any position. Take as many leadership seminars or classes in college as possible and practice what you learn." (Merchandising Execution Supervisor; 2011)

"Challenging, Frustrating And Fun...
My job can be challenging and frustrating at times, but overall is extremely fun. New items come in for consignment every day and it's always fun to see sometimes buy things before they go out on on the floor. It's really a dream job for any girl because I get to go shopping every week! But it's not so great for my wallet. Also, I don't have anyone with me, so there is more work, but I don't have anyone over me all day telling me what to do. Because of this, you must learn to be self motivated to get all of the work done on time - which can be hard at times since it is easy to get distracted by the customers. I always try to keep a steady pace. I take breaks, but I make sure they are short so that I stay busy most of the day." (Retail Manager; 2011)

"Communicate Well And Be Dependable...
You will need to develop excellent communication skills. This is so you can provide great customer service on a constant basis, and is necessary when sharing ideas with management daily. Be that person who your boss(es) can count on to get the job done. Perform well everyday and your time to move up in the retail world will surely come. Lastly, if you desire to work in gun sales, study the federal 4473 form and learn how to fill one out properly. A 4473 is a federal form for all gun sales, and you will be dealing with them often." (Retail Merchandising Manager; 2011)

"Delegate Or Fail...
As hard as it may be it is very important to delegate your workload. It is easy to become overwhelmed in this position and sharing tasks with others will often help you to keep your sanity. You can never communicate enough. Keep constant communication with the management team so that they are always in the know of the progress and areas of opportunity in the area you are in charge of. Be prepared to be flexible. Plans will almost always change." (Retail Assistant Manager; 2011)

"Do Whatever Is Needed...
One thing that is important in this job is to continue your education. A college degree is helpful to get ahead, as is a master's degree. It will allow you to move up higher in large corporations. Do not be afraid of getting your hands dirty. There is nothing wrong with picking up a mop if that is what is needed. Nobody is above any job in a restaurant. Learn from your mistakes. Tomorrow is always another day and the chance to do something better than the day before. Plan your work. Know how you plan to structure your day by finding out who you will be working with the next day and deciding how you will use them to get the work done." (Restaurant Manager; 2011)

"Good Shoes...
1) Prepare to lose weight! Retail provides a lot more exercise than some are used to -- make sure to prep your body and begin eating appropriately! 2) Definitely invest in some fashionable, but extremely supportive, shoes. Being able to run around is a must. 3) Be open to change. The retail industry is fast-paced." (Part-Time Retail Manager; 2011)

"Love Retail Or Burn Out...
Most importantly, make sure that you truly enjoy retail before you take on a position in retail management. If you do not truly love retail, then it will be very easy to burn out. Secondly, always be willing and open to learn new things. Retail is constantly changing. Finally, take the time to train and develop your staff. Retail has a high turnover rate, so make it a habit to always have someone trained. That way if someone quits or needs to be fired, you always have a backup employee trained and ready to step into the empty position." (Retail Store Manager; 2011)

"Retail Is A Good Stepping Stone...
The first piece of advice would be to consider any career in retail as only temporary. That is, use it as a stepping stone to get somewhere better. That piece of advice is related to the second piece, which is that the retail industry actually does make for good entry level jobs. The high turnover rate means that retail is often hiring. If you can get your foot in the door and show ambition, you can and will move up. That brings me to my third point, which is be ready to move. The local retail jobs are limited, but if you want to travel or move to another place, retail can be a good stepping stone. For instance, get hired as a clerk. Stay onboard and move into management. Become a store manager and push to get into corporate management. Once you move into the corporate level, you can and probably will have to move or travel. I do not like to travel and can't move, but if you are young and just starting out, it can be attractive. The high turnover rate also means that getting into corporate management, like District or Regional management, can take only a few years, while in other fields it can take decades." (Assistant Manager - Retail Store; 2011)

"Some Pointers For Retail Leadership...
If you're going to survive the daily changes as a lead in the retail industry, you have to prioritize projects and make lists. Get your foot in the door and cross-train. Learning new roles will quickly give you the qualifications and experience needed to pursue a management-type position. With so many employees within one location, payroll can be very tight. Keeping your hours of availability open will land you more shifts and longer work days when you want them." (Retail Supervisor; 2011)

"Learn As Many Jobs As You Can...
The best advice I can give is to be patient. In the store where I work, there are approximately 250 employees doing around 100 million dollars worth of business a year. We are also located 20 miles from the corporate office and have a lot of eyes on us. That makes for a lot of personalities and a lot of pressure and a little patience goes a long way. I would also try to learn as many jobs as possible no matter what area of retail you are in. The more areas you know, the better prepared you will be if an opportunity ever presents itself to be a store manager or regional manager having worked in the trenches. I would also be prepared for anything. Don't come in with tunnel vision on one task or with too many set goals because in retail you can get pulled in 10 different directions before ever accomplishing what you set out to do." (Senior Merchandise Manager; 2010)

"Learn Theatre Biz From Ground Up...
Interestingly, this was not my career choice. During the recession, I lost my corporate position to downsizing and was laid off for several months. Although this is not where my expertise lies, I feel fortunate that I branched into this management position. That said, my advice would be to learn the business from the bottom up. Starting as an usher or a concession employee is a great way to learn how the theatre business works. You have to value the company you are working for and learn to value the customer -- they are the ones coming to the movie and paying the money to keep the theatre running. It is important to be consistent in dealing with any issue that comes your way. If you stick to the corporate policy, you will do fine in retail." (Theatre Manager; 2010)

"Seriously Consider Another Career...
I would consider another career entirely unless this is your dream. If so, be very prepared to work hard and deal with a lot of aggravation. Know that each day will challenge your patience and resolve. Know that you will not receive any recognition. No one will thank you. You will get little pay in return for your efforts and at the end of the day you will wonder where you went wrong. Believe me, avoid retail like the plague. If you willfully seek this as your career, you need to be examined by a professional. Seriously, it's that bad." (Store Manager; 2009)