I’ve worked in retail for most of the last 10 years. Five of that I’ve spent as an assistant manager. Managing retail employees brings with it its own challenges and rewards, and it take a specific skill set to be successful as a retail manager.
Here are the five most important skills for a retail manager:
The most important skill a retail manager can bring to the table is the ability to listen. Retail employees come from a variety of backgrounds; poor, middle class, educated, uneducated. As a manager, you have to be able to listen to all of their stories, ideas, issues, and complaints without being judgmental. You have to be able to offer advice and consolation. You have to be able to detox them from their home lives and focus them on the tasks at hand.
The second most important skill a retail manager can bring to the table is communication. With communication comes motivation. You have to be able to speak positively and clearly, provide guidance and instruction. These things are paramount to getting the job done. An employee many not understand why a specific shelf needs reset. It is the manager’s job to explain why the shelf is being reset, how it will be reset, and what the end goals are.
Be Visible and Approachable
A retail manager must also be visible and approachable. This means being out on the sales floor. If an associate has a question or concern, they need to be able to find the manager without searching the entire store. Most of the questions a retail manager receives are time sensitive.
A retail manager must also be knowledgeable. They have to know their job, but they must also know every other job in the store and be able to explain it, train it, and troubleshoot it. At my last position, we often had problems with the photo software and printer. Assessing the situation quickly was paramount. We always had a long line of customers waiting to see their photos. A paper jam had to be fixed within a matter of minutes. A missing photo had to be found within the same time-frame. Since I was the manager, it was my job to fix it as quickly as possible.
Finally, a retail manager must be willing to help with any task. My own personal motto has always been “I will not ask an employee to do anything that I would not be willing to do myself.” This includes, taking out the trash, cleaning bathrooms, resetting and stocking shelves, and running cash registers during times of high customer volume. It speaks volumes to both employees and customers when a manager is willing to do even the most remedial of tasks.