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Store Manager Career Guide

What is a store manager?

A store manager is a professional responsible for overseeing the daily operations of a retail establishment. Their role is to ensure that the store operates efficiently, meets its sales targets, and provides exceptional customer service. These professionals are essential in various industries in the retail sector, including fashion, electronics, groceries, and more.

Managers play major role in a store’s success, as they help drive sales, manage employees, and ensure customer satisfaction. Their leadership and management skills directly impact a store’s profitability, reputation, and overall customer shopping experience.

Duties and responsibilities

The duties and responsibilities of a store manager involve a blend of operational, financial, and people management tasks. They oversee the store’s daily operations, ensuring it runs smoothly and efficiently. This includes managing inventory, ensuring the store’s presentation and cleanliness, handling customer complaints or issues, and dealing with operational challenges that may arise.

From a financial perspective, managers are responsible for meeting the store’s sales targets, managing budgets, and controlling costs. They analyze sales figures and forecast future sales volumes to maximize profits.

As managers of people, these professionals recruit, train, supervise, and motivate their staff. They set sales targets, monitor performance, and provide feedback and coaching to help their team succeed.

Work environment

The work environment for a store manager is typically the retail store they manage. This can range from a small boutique to a large supermarket, which can require being on the sales floor much of the time. The role is often hands-on, and these professionals can expect to interact regularly with customers, handle merchandise, and work closely with their team members.

The role can be fast-paced and challenging, particularly during busy shopping periods or sales. It requires excellent organizational skills, customer service skills, and managing multiple tasks simultaneously.

Typical work hours

Store managers typically work full-time, but unlike typical office jobs, retail hours can include evenings, weekends, and holidays, especially during busy retail periods like the holiday season. The role may also require overtime during inventory periods or when preparing for sales or promotional events.

Despite the demanding nature of the job, being a store manager can be rewarding. It offers the opportunity to directly impact a store’s success, lead a team, and interact with a wide range of people.

How to become a store manager

To become a store manager, you must acquire a strong background in retail, customer service, or a related field, gain practical experience, and develop excellent leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills. Here’s a step-by-step guide to entering this field:

Step 1: Obtain a relevant educational background

While a college degree is not always required for this position, having a degree in business administration, retail management, or a related field can provide you with a solid foundation in the skills and knowledge required for the role. Some colleges and universities offer specialized programs in retail management, while others provide relevant courses within their business administration programs.

Step 2: Gain practical experience

Hands-on experience is essential for developing the skills needed to be an effective store manager. Start by working in entry-level retail positions, such as sales associate, cashier, or customer service representative, to gain practical experience and a deep understanding of store operations. As you progress in your retail career, take on additional responsibilities and leadership roles, such as team leader or department manager.

Step 3: Develop leadership, communication, and problem-solving skills

These professionals must excel at leadership, communication, and problem-solving as they manage staff, address customer issues, and make decisions that impact store operations. Participate in team projects or management competitions to practice working in a leadership role.

Take courses or workshops in leadership, communication, and problem-solving to strengthen these skills. Here are two popular online courses in these areas you may consider:

Step 4: Obtain relevant certifications (optional)

While not always required, obtaining relevant certifications can help demonstrate your expertise and commitment to professional development. Certifications may be industry-specific or cover broader retail management concepts. 

Some popular certifications include the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Certified Retail Professional (CRP) and the Retail Industry Leaders Association’s (RILA) Retail Management Certificate.

You may also consider taking one of the following certification courses. These are both fully online and you’ll earn a certificate you can add to your resume upon completing each of them:

Step 5: Build a professional network

Networking is essential for building a successful career in this role. Attend industry conferences, workshops, and professional events to connect with other professionals and potential employers. Establish a strong online presence by creating a professional website, blog, or LinkedIn profile to showcase your expertise and experience in retail management.

Step 6: Stay current with industry advancements and trends

The retail industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies and best practices emerging regularly. Engage in continuous learning by attending workshops, conferences, and webinars to stay up-to-date with the latest advancements in your industry. You may also consider pursuing advanced degrees or specialized certifications to deepen your knowledge and enhance your career prospects.

Step 7: Apply for jobs

With the necessary education, experience, and certifications, start applying for store manager positions. Tailor your resume and cover letter to emphasize your retail expertise, leadership abilities, and communication skills. During interviews, be prepared to discuss specific examples of your past experiences and demonstrate your understanding of retail management principles and best practices.

How much do store managers make?

The salary of a store manager can vary widely and is influenced by several key factors. One of the most significant is the type of store. For example, managers in high-end retail outlets or large chain stores often earn significantly more than those in small, independent shops.

Experience is also a major factor. Those with many years of retail management experience, or those who have proven their ability to oversee operations and drive sales effectively, generally earn more than those new to the role.

Geographic location plays a role as well. Managers in areas with a higher cost of living or a high concentration of retail outlets, like New York or Los Angeles, often earn more than those in other regions.

The performance of the store can also affect their compensation. Some managers earn bonuses tied to the financial performance of their store, so those leading high-performing locations may have the potential for higher earnings.

Lastly, the size of the company can significantly influence compensation. Larger retail companies often have more resources to pay higher salaries than smaller, independently owned stores.

Highest paying industries

  • Clothing Stores – $78,810
  • General Merchandise Stores – $77,240
  • Department Stores – $72,460
  • Food and Beverage Stores – $71,980
  • Building Material and Supplies Dealers – $70,550

Highest paying states

  • New York – $80,520
  • New Jersey – $79,560
  • Massachusetts – $78,340
  • Connecticut – $76,980
  • Delaware – $76,450

Browse store manager salary data by market

Types of store managers

Throughout this career guide section, we explore the various types and specializations associated with the profession of store manager. Their specializations can vary depending on the type of store they manage, the specific retail sector they work in, and the size and scope of their responsibilities.

Supermarket manager

Supermarket managers oversee the operations of supermarkets or grocery stores. They handle everything from inventory management to customer service and supervise the various supermarket departments, such as produce, bakery, or deli.

Department store manager

Department store managers are responsible for large stores that carry various products, often divided into different departments. These professionals may manage the entire store or be responsible for one or more specific departments, depending on the store size.

Specialty store manager

Specialty store managers run stores focusing on a specific product type, such as electronics, books, or sporting goods. Professionals in this role often have specific knowledge of the products their store sells, in addition to their managerial skills.

Convenience store manager

Convenience store managers oversee smaller retail locations that typically carry a limited range of items, often including groceries, snacks, and beverages. Convenience stores are often open for extended hours, requiring these managers to oversee operations across multiple shifts.

Outlet store manager

Outlet store managers run stores that sell overstocked or discontinued merchandise from a single manufacturer or retailer, often at discounted prices. These stores can be standalone or located in outlet malls.

Online store manager

Online store managers manage retail operations for online businesses. They handle tasks like managing product listings, overseeing customer service for online customers, and analyzing sales data.

Top skills for store managers

Strong leadership abilities are fundamental for store managers. It’s essential that they guide and inspire their team, set clear expectations and goals, and foster a positive and productive work environment. Effective leadership involves directing tasks, nurturing talent, resolving conflicts, and promoting team collaboration.

These professionals set the tone for how their team interacts with customers, ensuring a friendly, welcoming, and responsive environment. Excellent customer service can drive customer loyalty, positive reviews, and, ultimately, increased sales.

Proficiency in inventory management is another vital skill for managers, as they must understand how to balance stock levels to meet customer demand without overstocking. This involves planning, forecasting, and using inventory management software to track stock movement and identify trends.

A solid understanding of sales and marketing strategies is necessary to understand how to attract and retain customers, drive sales, and promote their store effectively. This includes knowledge of merchandising, pricing strategies, promotional campaigns, and understanding customer behavior.

Finally, financial acumen is essential for store managers. Professionals in this role are responsible for the store’s budget, sales targets, and financial reporting. Understanding these financial aspects helps them make informed decisions about inventory, staffing, marketing, and other operational costs, ensuring the store’s profitability and sustainability.

Store manager career path

The career path for a store manager typically begins with an entry-level role in retail, such as a sales associate, cashier, or customer service representative position. These roles provide an opportunity to learn about store operations, customer service, and sales techniques.

After gaining experience and demonstrating leadership skills, you could advance to a supervisory role such as a department supervisor or assistant manager. In these positions, you’ll take on more responsibility, overseeing staff and managing a particular area or department within the store.

With further experience and a strong track record of managing teams and achieving sales goals, you could progress to a store manager role. Here, you’ll oversee the entire store’s operations, from managing staff and inventory to driving sales and ensuring customer satisfaction.

Beyond this, there are opportunities to advance to multi-unit roles such as district manager or regional manager. These positions involve overseeing the operations of multiple stores within a specified region.

In the long term, some professionals transition into corporate roles within the retail organization, such as in operations management, purchasing, or marketing. Additionally, some successful store managers may own and manage their own retail businesses.

As of late, the role of a store manager has significantly evolved due to the increasing adoption of technology, changes in consumer behavior, and the after-effects of the global pandemic. 

These trends emphasize the blending of online and offline retail, often called “omnichannel retailing.” Managers are increasingly expected to drive this initiative and ensure a seamless shopping experience for customers, no matter which platform they choose to engage with.

With the rise of consumer social consciousness, there’s a growing demand for managers to take on a larger role in implementing sustainable and ethical practices. Consumers want to know more about where their products come from and how they’re made, so these professionals must ensure transparency in their operations.

Another trend is the heightened importance of data analytics in decision-making. As a store manager, the ability to interpret sales data, customer behavior, and market trends is invaluable for strategic planning and forecasting.

Employment projections for store managers

According to the latest data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, employment for first-line supervisors of retail sales workers, including store managers, is projected to grow 8% through 2031, about as fast as the average for all occupations. The increase in online sales, which requires fewer workers, may limit job growth in brick-and-mortar retail stores. However, the need to replace workers who leave the occupation should create a substantial number of job openings.

Store manager career tips

Prioritize customer service

As a store manager, exceptional customer service should be at the forefront of your priorities. As a representative of your brand, you can shape customer experiences directly. Fostering a customer-centric approach among your team can increase customer loyalty and drive repeat business.

Build team leadership skills

Strong team leadership skills are a must. You must inspire, motivate, and guide your team toward the store’s goals. This involves everything from scheduling and task delegation to training and performance reviews. Strong leadership skills will enable you to effectively manage your team and promote a positive and productive work environment.

Understand inventory management

Inventory management is a crucial aspect of the store manager’s role. By effectively managing stock levels, you can prevent inventory shrinkage, ensure popular items are always available, and reduce storage costs. It’s helpful to master skills like inventory forecasting, stock rotation, and inventory management software.

Master sales strategies

In this role, mastering effective sales strategies is beneficial. This includes understanding the sales process, being aware of the best ways to display products, and creating an appealing store layout. You can contribute significantly to the store’s profitability and success by boosting sales performance.

Continuous learning

The retail landscape constantly changes, and keeping yourself updated can give you a competitive edge. To foster continuous learning, consider the following:

  • Attend retail-focused seminars and workshops
  • Enroll in management courses to develop leadership skills
  • Keep up with retail industry news and trends
  • Learn about new inventory management systems or customer relationship management (CRM) software

Build a professional network

Networking is an essential aspect of career growth. It can provide opportunities for mentorship, partnerships, and career advancement. Here are some professional associations:

  • National Retail Federation (NRF)
  • American Management Association (AMA)
  • Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA)
  • The International Council of Shopping Centers (ICSC)
  • Retail Management Institute (RMI)

Cultivate financial acumen

Managers should possess financial acumen to understand the store’s performance and make informed decisions. This includes understanding financial reports, budgeting, and sales figures. Your ability to handle the store’s financial aspects can directly impact its profitability and success.

Encourage a positive store culture

Creating a positive store culture is a powerful way to boost employee morale and productivity. This can be achieved by encouraging teamwork, recognizing the achievements of staff members, and promoting an inclusive environment. A positive culture can also enhance customer experiences, contributing to the store’s overall success.

Where the store management jobs are

Top companies

  • Walmart
  • Target
  • The Home Depot
  • CVS Health
  • Lowe’s

Top states

  • California
  • Texas
  • Florida
  • New York
  • Illinois

Top job sites

  • zengig
  • Indeed
  • LinkedIn
  • Monster
  • Snagajob


What qualifications are typically required for a store manager?

Most positions require a high school diploma, with many employers favoring candidates with bachelor’s degrees in business or a related field. In addition, substantial retail experience, often at a supervisory or managerial level, is usually required. Essential skills include leadership, communication, customer service, problem-solving, and understanding retail management systems and procedures.

What skills are important for a store manager to possess?

Managers should have excellent leadership and communication skills. They must effectively direct their team, solve problems, and make decisions impacting the store’s operation. Customer service skills are crucial, as they often deal directly with customers, handle complaints, and ensure the store meets customer needs. 

Understanding business and financial principles is also necessary to meet sales goals and manage budgets.

What is the role of a store manager in staff management?

Playing a significant role in staff management, they are responsible for hiring, training, supervising, and sometimes firing employees. Managers also schedule shifts, ensure employees perform their roles effectively, and handle any issues or disputes. 

Additionally, professionals in this role often motivate their team, set sales targets, and foster a positive work environment.

Is previous experience in retail necessary to become a store manager?

While it’s not always strictly necessary, having previous experience in retail is highly beneficial for this role. Understanding how a retail environment operates, providing excellent customer service, managing inventory, and supervising a team are skills usually honed through direct retail experience. Some work up from entry-level retail roles to gain this experience.

How does a store manager contribute to a store’s sales and profitability?

Managers contribute significantly to a store’s sales and profitability. They are usually responsible for setting and meeting sales goals, managing budgets, and controlling costs. 

These professionals also oversee inventory management, ensuring the store is well-stocked with high-demand items. By training and motivating their staff, they help drive sales and ensure customer satisfaction, which can lead to repeat business.

What role does a store manager play in customer service?

These professionals often play a leading role in customer service. They may deal directly with customers, handle complaints, and find solutions to customer issues. 

Managers also set the standard for customer service within the store, training staff to deliver high-quality service and ensuring the store environment is welcoming and customer-focused.

What are typical challenges a store manager might face?

Some common challenges include dealing with difficult customers, managing staff issues, meeting sales targets, and handling inventory problems. 

They must also adapt to changing market conditions, customer trends, and the demands of upper management. Problem-solving and decision-making skills are vital to addressing these challenges.

What is the work environment like for a store manager?

Their work environment is typically fast-paced and dynamic. These professionals are often on their feet, moving around the store to supervise employees, assist customers, and oversee the general operation of the store. Hours can be long, particularly during peak retail periods, and weekend or holiday work may be required.

What is the role of a store manager in inventory management?

In inventory management, they ensure that the store has the right stock to meet customer demand. Their responsibilities entail coordinating with suppliers, placing orders, receiving deliveries, and organizing stock. Managers also oversee stocktaking procedures, handle discrepancies, and may use inventory management software to track stock levels.

How can a store manager improve a store’s performance?

Managers can improve store performance through various strategies, including: 

  • Effective staff training
  • Exceptional customer service
  • Smart inventory management
  • Efficient cost control

They may also implement promotional or marketing strategies to attract more customers. Constantly evaluating the store’s performance and seeking feedback from customers and employees can provide valuable insights for improvement.