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Exploring store management as a career 

Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

Reviewed by Kathryn Uhles, MIS, MSP, Dean, College of Business and IT

Hand holding a shopping bag with money symbols around it to signify store management

Whether they oversee small boutiques or department stores for large chains, store managers are essential to the retail world. These individuals have a lot of influence over store staff and the customer experience.

Life as a store manager takes determination and grit. Every day brings unique challenges, and the seasonality of the business can sometimes mean long hours. But working in retail is also a versatile, valuable career experience for millions of Americans that can benefit from a business education.

Let’s walk through what store managers do and what it takes to excel in this role.

Duties and responsibilities of a store manager 

Depending on the outlet, store managers have varying levels of responsibility. Many managers are responsible for overseeing employees, as well as financial management and customer service.

Aside from their greater responsibilities, managers often perform a range of small but necessary duties each day. These tasks often include opening the store, ensuring cash registers have the appropriate funds and replenishing merchandise. Store managers may also often take closing shifts that require them to reconcile nightly deposits.

The major ongoing components of store management include the following responsibilities:

Financial oversight and management 

Financial management is a key part of successful business, and store managers must understand how to handle financial aspects such as:

  • Monitoring expenses
  • Monitoring market trends
  • Conducting competitor analyses
  • Analyzing financial reports
  • Preparing and managing budgets
  • Identifying areas for improvement
  • Striving to achieve profitability targets
  • Making informed decisions to optimize resources and minimize waste

Another part of this is analyzing sales data, identifying trends and developing strategies to drive sales. Sales data often influence payroll, as most stores need to optimize their teams to create the biggest benefit to the business. Finally, store managers collaborate with their teams to implement promotional campaigns, create attractive displays and optimize the store layout to maximize sales potential. 

Customer service 

Store managers understand that happy customers are vital to their business’s success. The manager and company strive to create an environment that fosters customer satisfaction from the moment someone steps through the door.

To do this, they must train and motivate their employees to deliver outstanding customer service. They provide guidance on how to:

  • Engage with customers
  • Actively listen to their needs
  • Offer personalized assistance

Moreover, store managers are the ultimate problem-solvers regarding customer complaints or concerns. They need to have the skills to actively listen to customer grievances and find solutions that leave them feeling understood, valued and satisfied.

Creating a positive customer experience also means paying attention to details. Store managers ensure the shop is well maintained and visually appealing by keeping shelves stocked, merchandise neatly displayed and aisles clear of clutter. They understand that a clean and well-organized store makes shopping more convenient and enhances the customer experience.

Inventory management 

Inventory management is one of the most critical tasks of store managers, who must:

  • Manage stock levels
  • Monitor inventory accuracy
  • Order new products
  • Ensure merchandise gets stocked
  • Train employees on loss prevention strategies

They must stay on trend by learning what’s selling well and adjusting orders accordingly to avoid overstocking or understocking. Likewise, they ensure all products are correctly priced, labeled and displayed. Plus, they have to plan for seasonal changes.

Staff training and management 

Store managers are only as good as their teams. That’s why providing training and development opportunities for employees is important. Store managers are responsible for:

  • Hiring and supervising employees
  • Onboarding new associates and developing leaders from within
  • Coordinating on-the-job training
  • Providing feedback and guidance (coaching)
  • Conducting regular performance reviews

Likewise, finding employee training solutions can help increase productivity. For example, online courses and digital programs offer flexible learning for employees, allowing them to work on their skills independently. Training helps ensure that staff are up to date on policies, processes and procedures.

Finally, don’t forget about product knowledge. Taking the time to learn about new products and making sure your team understands their benefits can potentially help increase sales and improve employee buy-in.

Store managers are also frequently called upon for unexpected challenges or emergencies. They must make quick decisions and take appropriate action to ensure overall safety and success of their employees, customers and store.

Skills needed for store management 

Thriving as a store manager requires a mixture of hard and soft skills. The level of understanding needed to run a store properly can vary. In some cases, corporate policies form the backbone of daily operations. At other times, a manager may need to adopt an “owner” mentality to accomplish goals.

Hard skills 

  • Financial management: Understanding budgeting, accounting and finance is crucial for a store manager to effectively oversee the store’s financial health. This involves managing expenses, optimizing profits and ensuring the store operates within its financial means.
  • Inventory management and stock control: The ability to manage inventory is essential. That includes ordering products, tracking stock levels, organizing stockrooms and implementing loss-prevention strategies.
  • Proficiency in point-of-sale (POS) systems: Store managers need expert-level familiarity with POS systems to process sales transactions and returns, manage customer data, track inventory and generate sales reports. They also need to be able to troubleshoot when issues arise during transactions.
  • Retail sales analysis and reporting: Analyzing sales data to understand customers’ behavior is important because it enables the tracking of sales trends and making informed decisions about inventory and marketing strategy.
  • Marketing: Knowing basic marketing principles can help store managers promote their products and attract customers. Marketing includes merchandising, disseminating promotional materials, leveraging social media platforms, and analyzing consumer behavior and purchasing trends.
  • Retail management: Store managers must have a strong background in operations, from logistics and supply chain management to store layout and customer flow. It ensures your store runs efficiently and reduces friction for your customers.

Soft skills 

  • Leadership: Inspiring and motivating teams to achieve store goals, along with providing direction and vision, is critical to effective store management.
  • Communication: Clear and effective communication, both verbal and nonverbal, with staff, customers and upper management is essential.
  • Customer service: Providing excellent customer service and resolving customer issues professionally is key. Store managers lead by example and deliver a high standard of service.
  • Problem-solving: Resolving customer complaints, employee conflicts or operational issues all demand problem-solving skills.
  • Time management: Store managers must effectively manage their own time and that of their employees to ensure that tasks are accomplished on schedule and that operations run smoothly.
  • Motivation and coaching: Keeping a store’s staff motivated in busy periods or challenging situations is an ongoing task, and it’s key to maintaining high morale and productivity.
  • Attention to detail: A keen eye for detail helps store managers optimize visual merchandising, inventory management and store presentation.
  • Organizational skills: Good store managers are always organized. From scheduling staff shifts to keeping the backroom navigable, excellent organizational skills ensure everything runs smoothly.

Benefits of being a store manager 

Being a store manager enables you to gain leadership experience, hone your supervision skills, develop your management style and learn how to motivate others. There are other benefits as well:

  • You have the chance to influence people’s lives: By fostering a positive culture and investing in employee development, you can help your team members grow both personally and professionally.
  • You can find opportunities for career growth: You may have the chance to move up to regional or district management positions, oversee multiple stores or explore options in other industries where your leadership and operational skills may be desirable.

Overall, you have the potential to make a lasting, positive impression on customers and colleagues.

How to become a store manager 

Pathways to a career as a store manager can vary based on the industry. Retail companies typically look at management candidates from two perspectives. Many stores, for example, promote managers from within. It’s not uncommon for employees to start as part-time or full-time sales associates and work their way up. Other retailers prefer their managers to have obtained a bachelor’s degree at minimum.

Earning a bachelor’s degree offers other benefits aside from potential employability. A career-relevant degree can teach skills that directly affect a store manager’s performance on the job, such as sales analysis, marketing and leadership. 

Education needed for a store manager

At a minimum, becoming a store manager requires a high school education. However, some employers may prefer or require a college degree. Having a college degree, such as a bachelor’s degree in management, can provide you with a comprehensive understanding of business fundamentals and management principles. Along with education, experience may also be important to employers.

However, while degrees provide valuable knowledge and skills, they don’t guarantee job outcomes. Success relies on a combination of knowledge, experience and the application of learned skills in real-world situations.

Store manager salary 

As of May 2023, the U.S. Bureau of Labor of Statistics (BLS) reports that general and operations managers made between $46,340 and $232,110 annually (with a median wage of $101,280). It’s important to keep in mind that this role and its annual salary can vary, especially by city, state, years with a company or experience in general, among other factors.

The best way to determine the annual salary for a specific role you’re interested in is to see if the job description states the salary range being offered or ask the employer in the interview what to expect. You might also do an internet search to see what the average salary is reported for your specific city and state.

If you want to become a store manager, a degree in business may help you stand out when applying for open roles.

Salary ranges are not specific to students or graduates of University of Phoenix. Actual outcomes vary based on multiple factors, including prior work experience, geographic location and other factors specific to the individual. University of Phoenix does not guarantee employment, salary level or career advancement. BLS data is geographically based. Information for a specific state/city can be researched on the BLS website.

Explore business programs 

If becoming a store manager interests you, University of Phoenix offers a variety of flexible, online business programs to consider.

The Bachelor of Science in Business and Bachelor of Science in Management programs emphasize leadership and management skills in the business sector. These are both solid options to consider when pursuing a career in store management.

The Bachelor of Science in Business with an Operations Management Certificate, meanwhile, can help you turn theory into practice with regard to marketing, analytics and business law.

If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you might consider the Master of Management or Master of Business Administration (MBA) to learn more in-depth leadership skills.

Learn more about how University of Phoenix can help as you pursue your educational and career goals! Request more information today.

Headshot of Michael Feder

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

A graduate of Johns Hopkins University and its Writing Seminars program and winner of the Stephen A. Dixon Literary Prize, Michael Feder brings an eye for detail and a passion for research to every article he writes. His academic and professional background includes experience in marketing, content development, script writing and SEO. Today, he works as a multimedia specialist at University of Phoenix where he covers a variety of topics ranging from healthcare to IT.

Headshot of Christina Neider

ABOUT THE REVIEWER

Christina Neider is the dean of the University of Phoenix College of Social and Behavioral Sciences. Neider’s career spans more than 30 years in academia, healthcare and the U.S. Air Force. She has held several academic leadership roles at University of Phoenix, and she is the Vice President of membership for the Arizona Chapter of the Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society.

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This article has been vetted by University of Phoenix's editorial advisory committee. 
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