How to Become a Retail Manager

Photo of a Retail Manager

Abby Myers has been a retail manager at Mills Music for two months, but she has worked in retail leadership positions for several years.

She also worked at JCPenney while in college, in a variety of positions. Her responsibilities included maintaining sale price signs, tracking online orders, training new employees, acting as operator, and managing merchandise shipments, to name a few. During her time at JCPenney, she received numerous awards for outstanding customer reviews.

Abby earned a Bachelor of Arts in romance linguistics from the University of Washington in 2012.

What is retail management?

Retail management is balancing customer service, having responsibility as a leader, and having an amiable personality. You have to be a leader, but you also have to be someone people want to work with.

Why did you decide to go into retail management?

I’ve been in retail for a few years and, after I graduated college, I decided it was time for me to take my skills to the next level.

Are there common misconceptions about your profession?

People think all managers are strict and mean and will quickly throw their employees under the bus. I believe it’s all about personality. I’ve been trying to bring in my kind personality but also maintain a professional barrier between me and my employees. You can be a boss without necessarily being bossy.

What is a typical day like for you?

I usually come into work a half-hour early, do the books for the previous night (making sure everything we took in from sales matches the money we received), and open the store. In between customers, I either clean the store or take inventory. I either help customers rent or purchase instruments, help them find accessories they need for their instrument, or help find sheet music. When the day is done, I lock up the store and make sure everything is in order for the next day.

What are your favorite aspects of your job?

I love talking with customers about music and helping them find their instruments.

What are your least favorite aspects of your job?

I don’t enjoy the paperwork that is involved. The company I work for is still transitioning toward computers, so all the managers are stuck filling out paperwork all the time.

What classes did you take in college that are the most relevant to your job?

I didn’t take any classes that were relevant, actually. I started working in retail as a summer job and I ended up sticking with it. I’ve learned more from experience and emulating my managers than taking any courses.

What personality traits do you think would help someone to be successful in retail management?

One needs to possess an ability to lead. Anyone can desire it, but it takes a certain quality to be able to actually lead. One also needs to be understanding and caring. Everybody is different, and you need to be able to respect that and tread accordingly. One also needs to be tough. Little “criticisms” are really meant to be constructive.

What personality traits do you think might hinder someone's success in retail management?

Overly sensitive personalities will make it difficult to lead and for employees to respect you. You can’t only have a desire to lead because intentions can only take you so far. Pride is also a big hindrance in this field. You need to be able to take responsibility and share it.

What advice, or words of caution, would you give to a student who is considering a career in retail management?

Don’t just go for any retail position unless it is somewhere you want to be or somewhere you can change to make it better. Not all retail jobs are the same and not all managing styles are the same. You need to find a place where your personality, your ideas, and your level of responsibility fit with the company’s ideals and goals. And above all, trust yourself. Your instincts will take you where you need to be and lead you into a satisfying and successful career.

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