How to Excel in Retail Management: 12 Tips to Keep Your Stores Running Smoothly

Managing a retail store is far from easy. Retailers, regardless of their size or industry, face similar challenges. As a store manager, you’re tasked with developing your team, keeping customers happy, ensuring healthy stock levels, and a host of other responsibilities.

Staying on top of everything not only requires a solid skillset, but you must also have the right mindset to succeed. 

To help you level up your retail management game, we asked a handful of experts to share their best pieces of advice for store managers. 

Have a look at what they had to say below.  

Hire for attitude, train for skill

While a major part of your team’s success depends on how well you train them, your job will be so much easier if you strive to bring in good people to begin with. We’re not just talking about recruiting  experienced staff and associates. You should also pay attention to each candidates’ innate traits and disposition, ensuring that they’re aligned with your brand. 

In other words, strive to hire for attitude and train for skills. 

As Eric Carrell, Marketing Advisor at SurfShark puts it, “While relevant professional experience is vital, don’t overlook the soft talents and personality attributes of candidates. When it comes to hiring new employees, I believe most businesses agree that culture fit is critical.”

The secret, Carrell says, is to “take your time.”

“Don’t wait until you’re in desperate need of help; get a jump start on seasonal hiring now. When it comes to hiring, take your time and involve your employees in the process. The onboarding process is crucial, and that training should continue.

Lead by example

Great leaders don’t just tell people what to do; they show them how things are done by setting the right example. 

“Walking the talk” fosters better employee relationships and empowers your team members to follow your lead. If you want something done in your store, consider doing it yourself and showing your team the best manner in which to carry out their tasks. 

“Store managers should be able to lead by example, including continuously finding ways to improve in the store. This could be something as small as cleaning, managing inventory, or moving merchandise around on the sales floor,” says Dylan Trussell, Co-Founder of Culprit Underwear.

“Managers should also be setting the example when interacting with customers, including greeting them when they come into the store and ensuring they are helped throughout their shopping experience.” 

Set up and document repeatable processes

According to David Janssen, CEO & Founder at VPNoverview, “When you create efficient operational processes and set clear expectations for essential regulations, it’s simple for retail employees to protect your company’s assets while also increasing customer experience. This begins with the use of a retail operations manual and the subsequent training of team members on how to follow the regulations.”

So, make it a point to establish repeatable processes in your store, and see to it that they’re well-documented. Doing so not only makes it easier for your staff to implement your procedures, but it also frees up your time to focus on other retail management duties. With properly documented SOPs, your employees can do the things they need to do without having to consult you, unless absolutely necessary. 

Get to know your employees

Employees may require different management styles depending on how they’re wired. In order to figure out how to best manage each team member, you must take the time to get to know them. Aside from helping your leadership skills, you’ll also build up morale and camaraderie within your team. 

Jim Pendergast, SVP of altLINE, recommends having one-on-one conversations with your staff. “How do you know how well your company is doing if you don’t know your employees personally? Take the time to find out who they are and why they started their positions. Most of the time, employees have hidden characteristics that only skilled managers can bring out of them.”

It’s also important to develop your listening skills. As Sumit Bansal Founder and CEO at TrumpExcel points out, “If you’re a good listener, you’re undoubtedly getting to know your coworkers both professionally and personally.”

Bansal continues, “Long hours, bright lights, dealing with clients, weekend shifts, and so on make retail workplaces difficult, so you want to demonstrate to your staff you’re right there with them.”

Set and execute challenging — but attainable — goals

Achieving your goals starts with identifying them in the first place. After all, you can’t be successful if you don’t know what success looks like. 

Before directing your team, ensure that you’ve set the right goals. This will enable you to determine the best retail strategy and will allow you to figure out how to measure success. 

For best results, make goal setting a collaborative process. 

“Setting attainable goals and rewarding accomplishments motivates your staff to perform at a greater level. But don’t make goals on your own; instead, talk to your employees individually and set goals together. Whatever the aim is (improved customer communication or hitting sales targets), it’s critical that you both agree on it and track its progress,” remarks Gerrid Smith, CEO & Founder of Property Tax Loan Pros.

Once you’ve set those goals,Smith recommends keeping a close eye on how your team is performing, then be ready to assist when necessary. 

“Don’t wait for an employee to fall behind,” he says, “Be there for them every step of the way and collaborate to find a solution that works. If an employee fails to fulfil expectations, a competent retail shop manager does not slam the door in their face; instead, they urge their team to keep going.”

Embrace technology

“Utilizing technology to its greatest potential is the ace up your sleeve,” says Ethan Howell, Co-Owner of Florida Environmental.

“The correct solution simplifies the job of a retail shop manager by allowing you to spend less time on mundane activities and more time on what matters most to your customers and employees.” 

As a retail store manager, part of your job should be to invest in technology. Now, the best tools to adopt will depend on your store. For some businesses, the best move is to upgrade their point of sale system. For others, it’s adopting online solutions and integrating their in-store tech with ecommerce. 

Figure out your store’s technology needs by identifying inefficiencies, as well as customer and employee pain points. Speak to your team and ask them what kinds of tools will make their jobs easier. Taking these steps will ensure that you’re investing in the right retail tech. 

Delegate properly

Successful retail management isn’t about doing everything yourself. It’s about empowering those around you to execute the necessary programs and tasks. Your job is to oversee, not to micromanage. 

As such, delegating tasks properly is a must. 

“Proper delegation ensures that employees are accountable for what happens when they are in charge. It also makes them more committed to excelling in their tasks. says Patrick Crane, Founder and CEO at Love Sew.

Be sure to instill a sense of ownership in your employees. Let them know that they’re not just ticking things off a to-do list. Rather, they’re in charge of the outcome of their tasks. 

Crane adds, “If you are just following a to-do list, it becomes difficult to know who is truly at fault when something goes wrong. However, if you pick a champion for each section, this individual will be accountable for any mistakes that may occur on their watch. This type of responsibility will also push the concerned employees to work hard in ensuring that their section performs well.” 

Be transparent

Trust is an essential ingredient in successful retail management, and one of the most effective ways to build trust is to promote a sense of openness and transparency in the workplace. 

Crane says that as a retail manager, you must “Strive to be as transparent as possible in how you manage your employees, customers, suppliers and other partners.”

“This helps cultivate a culture of trust and dependability, which contributes to a positive, more fulfilling work environment. Transparency will also make your employees respect you, which is essential if you want to lead effectively.” 

Establish and communicate your standards

“One of the biggest responsibilities of a retail manager is setting standards. Your employees must know what is expected of them. Otherwise, they wouldn’t know what’s right and wrong,” explains Chris Nddie, Co-Owner & Marketing Director at ClothingRIC.

So, take the time to establish and relay your store’s standards to your team members. See to it that everyone knows what is expected of them and what needs to be done to succeed in their role.

This involves documenting your company’s standards and regularly communicating them to your team. Strive to reinforce those standards through check-ins and reminders.

It may also be helpful to spotlight employees who are demonstrating and embodying your standards effectively, so other team members can learn from them.

Have your team’s back

Never lose sight of the fact that your staff’s wellbeing is paramount. 

As  Isla Sibanda, the owner of Privacy Australia puts it, “Customers are the most important part of any retail business, but remember, they are not always right. Don’t undermine employees when any of your customers get upset.”

Doing so “destroys their self-esteem and creates hard feelings towards management and the store itself,” Sibandaadds.

Strive to constantly support y our employees. And in the event that they’re doing something wrong, address their behavior in private and always be respectful. 

In these situations, Sibanda recommends taking them to another part of the store or stockroom “where you can guide them without embarrassing them.” 

Track your store’s data

You can’t manage and improve what you don’t measure. As such, keeping track of your retail KPIs is a must.

As Matthew Mundt, CEO of Hug Sleep, points out, managers should record various metrics, “including sales, employee productivity, sales from each employee, and turnaround times for customers.”

According to him, “This will give you a better idea of where your store stands and you could also compare it with other times of the year, other stores if you are in multiple locations, and help you project your goals and communicate them with your team.”​ 

The easiest way to stay on top of your data is by using a retail analytics solution that automatically records your sales, inventory movements, staff activities, and more. 

POS and retail management systems like Vend by Lightspeed, for example, have robust reporting capabilities that let you build your own reports. With Vend, you can slice and dice your retail data based on your needs and gather insights that can be used to further improve your retail business. 

Be forward-thinking and adaptable

If you want to be a successful retail manager, it’s not enough to oversee things in the present, You must also ensure that you’re in the best possible position to succeed in the future. 

This is where forward-thinking and adaptability come into play.  

You should be constantly looking ahead to identify trends, opportunities, and threats relevant to your business. Take note of what may happen in the future and always be prepared to act. 

“The ability to pivot and change with trends and tough times is essential for all retail managers,” says Liraz Birnbaum, Founder of Lula’s Garden.

“This was especially true after the pandemic; so many retail spaces struggled with their sales. However, many managers got creative with their tactics and were able to bounce back stronger than ever as more restrictions were lifted.”

Birnbaum continues, “The difference between those stores that failed and those that succeeded were the managers that were able to think outside the box quickly and effectively.”

So, how can you stay ahead? MichaelHumphreys, Founder & CEO at Z Grills Australia, recommends researching and analyzing the market.

“Change may be the single constant thing in the retail industry. Trends and preferences of the consumers are dynamic, they change over time. Market research provides you with a basis for market decision-making in the next stage.” 

 Kathryn McDavid, CEO of Editor’s Pick, echoes this advice and says that retail managers must “get ready for change.”

“Keep ahead of shopping trends. The pandemic has shown how quickly items which were rarely bought can become vital. Consider how sales of masks and sanitizer have fared in the last two years. Prepare for flexibility, don’t overstock and always keep channels open with wholesalers to ensure supply.” 

Final words

Managers are — will continue to be — critical in retail. And in today’s hyper competitive landscape, strong managerial skills can make all the difference. Hopefully, the pointers and recommendations in this article give you some ideas to improve your retail management game.

Good luck!

About Francesca Nicasio

Francesca Nicasio is Vend's Retail Expert and Content Strategist. She writes about trends, tips, and other cool things that enable retailers to increase sales, serve customers better, and be more awesome overall. She's also the author of Retail Survival of the Fittest, a free eBook to help retailers future-proof their stores. Connect with her on LinkedIn, Twitter, or Google+.