Retail store managers are playing an increasingly important role in the brick-and-mortar environment. As we’ve shifted from purely transactional spaces into in-person brand experiences, the role of the retail employee continues to change. It’s important to always look for ways to improve as a store manager. When it comes to pleasing your staff and your bosses, there are ways you can walk the line and balance both. Below, let’s look at 11 ways you can be a better store manager.
Build a Great Team
Every leader is only as good as the team they have behind them. It’s no different when it comes to managing a retail store.
“If your store runs as good or better when you are not there then you’ve done your job,” says Chris Hawkins, retail specialist at FitSmallBusiness.com.
It begins with hiring the right staff. And while relevant job experience is important, don’t forget to consider candidates’ soft skills and personality traits. One survey found that 95% of employers believe that culture fit is important when hiring staff.
The key is not to rush. Don’t wait until your back’s against the wall, and get a head start on seasonal hiring. “Take your time with hiring and involve your team in the interview process,” Hawkins recommends.
The onboarding process is important too — and training shouldn’t stop, he says. Document processes and provide training in different mediums so you can cater to multiple learning styles.
Be a Leader
Sure, being a store manager is in and of itself a leadership position. But holding a leadership role and actually being a leader are two different things — the best managers do both.
“The biggest mistake retail managers make is when they forget to be leaders,” says leadership development trainer Dr. Peter Langton.
Here are a few ways to be an effective leader:
Lead by example
Show your staff that you’re not above any task. Your employees will likely strive to match the effort and quality of your work.
Be decisive and display confidence
Especially during times of conflict. (Note that this doesn’t mean impulsive, it’s still important to rationally think through conflicts.)
If you’re stressed, your team will stress.
This will enable your employees to respect and trust you more easily.
“Leadership is about purposeful engagement,” says Dr. Langton. “Focus on making sure your crew knows what’s going on and why.”
Promote open communication
Part of being a great leader is facilitating a safe environment with two-way communication. More important than speaking is listening.
You also want to establish an open line of communication with your superiors. Give them important updates, share your team’s wins, and bring new ideas to the table.
Get to know your staff
If you’re an effective listener, you’re also probably getting to know your staff both on a professional and a personal level. Retail environments can be tough — long hours, weekend shifts, bright lights, dealing with customers, etc. — you want to show your employees you’re right there with them.
Praise staff for their wins, and provide constructive criticism when they miss the mark. Remember to match praise to the effort, and distribute it across your entire team.
Once you’ve gotten to know your staff, you should have a decent handle on their strengths. This is when delegating comes into play. “Empower staff with decision-making authority,” says Hawkins. He recommends sharing the information they need to make decisions, as well as establishing parameters to use during the decision-making process.
It’s easy to get wrapped up in all of the day-to-day tasks necessary to keep the store running. But the fact is, the more you delegate, the more you have time to spend on more impactful ventures. “Far too often, retail managers get overwhelmed by daily activity, inventory management, meeting sales goals, executing the plan,” says Dr. Langton. “The hardest way to manage is when the manager is responsible for directing all activity.”
Failure is chasing priorities, spending time calling in employees to cover for those that call out, spending closing hours catching up on tasks that weren’t completed. – Dr. Peter Langton
When you empower staff, they adopt a sense of ownership for the store’s well-being. They play a proactive role in its success.
“If you train your crew to respond to orders, they’ll be waiting on management for each step,” says Dr. Langton.
“Train your crew about the priorities, the purposes, and pride. Reinforce when someone takes initiative to straighten up a display, provide that extra level of customer service, or see a problem before it happens.” – Dr. Langton
Adopt a data-driven mentality
As a retail store manager, a data-driven mentality spans across all areas of the business: employee productivity, in-store sales, shrink, etc. Create a KPI checklist for your store, and then establish goals against which you can measure progress. Two figures to pay special attention to: time and money.
Goals should be S.M.A.R.T. — specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely — and established for the company (this would likely come from senior leadership), the store, each department or team, and individual employees.
Document and distribute the goals with those responsible for helping your store achieve them. “Share results, good, bad, and ugly,” says Hawkins. “Your employees will feel more invested in what you’re trying to accomplish.”
Establishing and tracking progress against goals is one way to keep employees motivated and engaged. But there are other tactics you can take:
It’s likely that most of your employees are part-time and juggle other priorities in their lives, like school, family, or even another job. Offering scheduling flexibility can improve employee satisfaction, which will in turn motivate them to perform better when they are on the job.
“Provide positive feedback for hard work and a job well-done, even if it didn’t result in a sale,” says Beverly Friedmann, who has a background in sales and retail management for retailers like L’Occitane and Malin+Goetz.
Rather than dwelling on losses or pointing blame when conflict arises, look for solutions. Encourage staff to contribute to the problem-solving process. Remember to listen to and respect their ideas.
There are lots of creative bonuses you can create for your team. Put yourself in their shoes and consider which perks would be most valuable to them. Or, better yet, ask. For example, 12% of ANZ temporary hourly workers want better access to transport, and many companies offer education funding assistance. Though these perks aren’t always in your control, if you bring the ideas to senior leadership, you’ll demonstrate to your staff that you’re on their side and have their interests at heart.
Don’t be just a boss, instead, play an active role in your employees’ professional development. Find out their career goals and look for ways to help them develop necessary skills and experience in their retail role.
Motivating your staff is important for employee retention. According to the JDA Voice of the Store Manager Survey, the second-biggest challenge store managers face is limited staffing. By keeping your staff engaged, you can help to reduce the prevalence of this issue in your store.
Maintain operational organization
While you may not be on the retail ops team, you do play a very important role in the process. Especially for retailers with multiple store locations, it can be challenging for the off-site corporate team to have their finger on the pulse. As a store manager, you can help them feel more informed.
“Every retail store manager should make sure their inventory count is managed well and up-to-date at all times,” says Friedmann. Use your POS system to determine what’s in stock, how much, and how quickly it’s selling — and when you need to reorder.
Embrace new technology
To streamline store operations, you’re likely going to want to adopt new technologies. This will reiterate your value to your superiors.
Now, this doesn’t mean that you need to implement every new tool that hits the market. Instead, understand your store’s goals and challenges and search for solutions catered to those needs.
For example, technology can introduce automations which can reduce the amount of manual processes. Manual processes are time-consuming and susceptible to human error; the right tech can mitigate each of these.
Get to know your customers
Much like you want to understand the people you’re managing, you also want to get to know the people you and your team are selling to. “Understand who your buyers are and then look for all opportunities to connect with them in your community, whether it’s through social media, a civic organization, or your kid’s soccer game,” says Hawkins.
Building authentic relationships with customers can help you not only understand them on a personal level, but also their pain points and which products would absolve those pain points.
It’s easy to get bogged down with the management side of being a retail store manager, but it’s important to also wear your sales associate hat. “Retail store managers who avoid direct sales and customer interaction by focusing on other tasks and simply try to direct their employees to do sell are making a critical error,” says Friedmann.
Not only does this hurt the store in terms of missed sales, but employees also miss out on crucial learning opportunities. Seeing a manager in action can give them great insight into how to make sales themselves. And not giving staff this opportunity can also hurt the team mentality, Friedmann points out.
Be proactive with compliance
Ensuring your store is compliant — both with internal and external standards — is one of your biggest responsibilities as a manager. And while it’s often thankless, behind-the-scenes work, it’s absolutely critical to the business’s overall health. Non-compliance can lead to major challenges or, worse, shutting down the company.
“Ensure all merchandising is up-to-date and in accordance with store policies and that the store is clean at all times,” says Friedmann. “All employees should practice storewide protocols.”
Conduct regular retail audits, both scheduled at regular intervals and sporadically. “Inspecting what you expect can go a long way in ensuring compliance,” says Hawkins. “Perform a random audit for a particular department every so often.”
Skills you need as a retail store manager
In addition to the above tips, Bob Phibbs of The Retail Doctor recommends all managers develop the following seven skills:
The ability to make a sale
The greater impact you can make on the business, the more invaluable you become.
Putting it all into action
You can’t run a store all on your own. To be an effective retail store manager, you need a strong team, great leadership skills, and a data-driven mentality. The best managers empower their staff to take a proactive role in the store’s success, and make their superiors feel confident that they’re handling the job.
About the author:
Alex is a copywriter who works with B2B companies in the retail, e-commerce, and travel sectors to create strategies and expert longform, website, and blog content. You can see her work on sites like Shopify, Vend, Stitch Labs, Money Under 30, and more. thealexsheehan.com.