5 Key Skills for a Successful Career
in Retail Management

See also: Management Skills

Reflecting on how the retail industry looked 20 years ago, it would have been difficult to envisage today’s landscape. As online commerce and customer-centric shopping experiences continue to dominate a highly competitive sector, many brick-and-mortar stores are left behind, struggling to compete with the demands of modern retail.

For retail managers, this evolving landscape can make an already demanding role even more challenging as the pressures of hitting store quotas, managing budgets, staff and customers service mounts. However, this also makes it a fascinating career choice and, with the right skills under your belt, you can map out a highly rewarding career, whether it’s managing your own independent store or reaching the top-tier positions with the retail giants.

In today’s post, we’re shining the spotlight on the retail sector, sharing the key skills and techniques required for succeeding in retail management. From outstanding leadership skills to a solid understanding of in-store branding and marketing, it pays to arm yourself with valuable life skills that can be used to your advantage in the ever-changing world of retail.

Successful Career in Retail Management

Lead By Example

All management positions require a certain level of leadership skills, and this is no different in the retail sector. But leadership isn’t just about rallying speeches and a commanding presence, there are a number of ways you can project strong leadership qualities effectively.

Naturally, being in a management role does put you in a certain position of power, but to be an effective leader you need to ensure you don’t abuse this privilege by setting a good example within your team and demonstrating you’re a team player. From lending a hand on the shop floor during busy times to offering ideas for in-store improvements, showing you’re willing to wade in and help achieve team goals will go a long way in communicating your ability to lead.

It’s also beneficial to find ways to create an inclusive and engaging working environment. Considering and understanding member’s individual needs for personal development, will show that you value their input, while open and transparent communication on all levels, centred around shared goals, will ensure staff feel involved and encouraged to contribute.

Of course, there will be instances where discipline is required, but this doesn’t always require laying down the law. Try to establish an appropriate reinforcement technique for rules and regulations with staff, explaining why things need to be done a certain way clearly and calmly - this can earn you more respect as a figure of authority than ruling with an iron fist.

By setting a good example to your staff and creating an open, engaged workplace where staff are listened to and respected, you will demonstrate excellent qualities for leading your team and your career to success.

Champion excellent customer service

If you’re considering pursuing a career in retail then delivering excellent customer service should be a top priority.

Whether you’re managing online commerce or in-store sales, the customer should always remain a core focus of your efforts - ensuring customers have a good shopping experience every time they visit your store or website to keep them coming back.

To do this, retail managers not only need to provide outstanding customer service in the now, they also need to have an eye on the future. As consumers become more time-poor with busy lifestyles, they’re looking for quicker, more convenient ways to shop for their favourite items, like online. But, regardless of where they’re purchasing goods, consumers now expect the same level of personal service and a seamless shopping experience across all channels, hence the rise of omnichannel retail.

From keeping an eye on consumer trends and technological advancements to training staff on the importance of maximising customer experiences with your brand, learning to anticipate the needs of shoppers will help to steer you through a successful career in retail.

The Art of Delegation

Working in retail management requires individuals to be responsible for a number of different aspects of the business but, as we all know, you can’t be in more than one place at one time. So, in order to be effective in your position, it’s imperative to master the art of delegation.

Delegating responsibility can be a daunting prospect for managers, so surrounding yourself with a competent team that can be trusted to carry out tasks and solve issues without your direct input is key.

Tying in with leadership qualities, clearly communicating shared goals and individual ownership of responsibilities, as well as providing suitable staff training and development will ensure employees have the necessary skills to carry out their job effectively. In turn, this will leave you with more time to focus on your core responsibilities with the peace of mind that everyone knows what’s expected of them in their roles.

Up your branding knowledge

For those who choose to work in physical retail outlets, having a good understanding of in-store branding and marketing techniques will stand you in good stead for a career in retail.

First, a well-planned store with visual branding concepts and a user-friendly layout will help to boost shoppers’ in-store experience. But, second, a retail shop that utilises effective branding and marketing techniques can also work to increase sales and profit margins - the main goal for any business.

From pristine window displays and easy-to-navigate aisles, to well-positioned product dump bins or shelf wobblers, utilising in-store branding will demonstrate a sound understanding of customer behaviours and retail trends.

Effective time-management

Time is a precious commodity in any management position but, in retail, having the ability to effectively manage your time is a much-needed life skill to ensure things run smoothly, as well as achieving a healthy work-life balance.

Juggling tight budgets, staff management, customer service and a continually changing landscape, good retail managers must be organised, decisive and competent multitaskers to stay on top of everything.

To do this, you need to be good at planning your time, ensuring your key focuses and daily objectives are met. At the same time, possessing the ability to quickly prioritise the urgency of certain situations is fundamental to good time management. Realising that not everything is urgent and knowing whether to solve a problem immediately, deal with it later or to delegate to someone else, as well as finding ways to cope with inevitable interruptions, is a key asset.

Further Reading from Skills You Need

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership

The Skills You Need Guide to Leadership eBooks

Learn more about the skills you need to be an effective leader.

Our eBooks are ideal for new and experienced leaders and are full of easy-to-follow practical information to help you to develop your leadership skills.

Retail is a fast-paced industry, continually evolving to develop new ways to maximise sales and meet consumer needs. This naturally poses an exciting career prospect for many, and with these key skills in your armoury, we hope you’ll strive to achieve an excellent career in the world of retail.

About the Author

Siobhan Scott is Marketing Executive at shop4pop.com.

With over 40 years’ experience creating and producing full event and retail campaigns for large national clients in a variety of industries, they’ve been able to transfer their expertise from Simpson Group to the web-to-print website - shop4pop.com.