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Learn How to Start Your Retail Management Career

retail store manager checks inventory on tablet

What Does a Career in Retail Management Entail?

A retail management career will give you the opportunity to be in charge of making your store function, from the highest corporate level to interactions on the sales floor.

From store managers at the entry-level to buyers and merchandisers who work behind the scenes, a career as a retail manager involves overseeing everything that makes a store work—the products themselves, visual presentation, the sales team and customer service.

Though most public interaction with retail management happens in the store itself, quite a bit of retail management happens in the corporate environment.

What Does a Retail Manager Do?

Retail managers supervise and work with the sales team and are in charge of the day-to-day details of a given store, whether it is ensuring the store opens on time or dealing with inventory.

In both individual stores and chains or franchises backed by a central company, buyers select new merchandise for the store and negotiate terms, while merchandisers display the product for customers by deciding its location within the store and analyzing sales trends. Replenishers ensure that there is enough inventory to satisfy customer demand.

Since most retail management jobs—and retail jobs in general—require you to either work with the public or consistently take public opinion into account, successful retail managers project a cheerful, professional persona and are able to communicate well, listen and compromise. Working retail can be stressful, especially in a "customer is always right" culture, but it can also be rewarding for those who enjoy interacting with their community and keeping abreast of product trends. To begin working towards a retail management career, learn about a business administration bachelor's or MBA degree.

Retail Management Career Path

Entry Level

Types of Roles

  • Assistant buyer, assistant store manager, pricing and signing coordinator, merchandising representative

Getting There

  • Associate's degree
  • Retail experience
  • Strong math and analytical skills


  • Build displays
  • Examine reports for selling trends
  • Maintain accuracy of pricing and signage
  • Monitor inventory
  • Perform repricing of merchandise
  • Prepare weekly sales and inventory reports
  • Recommend markdowns

Mid Level

Types of Roles

  • Store manager, merchandise planner, buyer, control buyer

Getting There

  • All entry-level requirements
  • Bachelor's degree, preferably in business
  • Exceptional customer service skills
  • Ability to motivate team of associates
  • Strong communication, negotiation, and organizational skills


  • Attend trade shows
  • Control receipts and store financial reporting
  • Devise product promotions
  • Establish strong relationships with vendors
  • Lead teams to meet sales goals
  • Manage inventory
  • Manage departmental budgets
  • Negotiate vendor terms
  • Organize product line reviews
  • Oversee implementation of store sales, merchandising and pricing plans
  • Resolve customer complaints
  • Set prices

Senior Level

Types of Roles

  • Store director, district manager, division merchandising manager

Getting There

  • MBA Degree
  • Retail management experience
  • Proven leadership, strategic and operational abilities
  • Thorough understanding of retail business operations
  • Strong interpersonal skills
  • Ability to travel within a territory to call on store locations


  • Develop short- and long-term business plans
  • Ensure that stores are safe environments for customers and employees
  • Lead company to revenue and profit goals
  • Oversee implementation of company strategy
  • Oversee product line reviews and promotion plans
  • Recruit and develops management teams
  • Track various financial metrics to ensure shelf space meets profit potential
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