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How to be a great retail manager

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Having a retail manager job is something to be really proud of. But amongst your dancing and celebrations, part of you still might be nervous about your new management job. How do you be a good manager without appearing to be an embarrassing try-hard with the assertiveness of a doormat or an unapproachable dragon with the temper of an angry rottweiler? Here’s a handy guide.



If this is your first time in a management role,you’ve probably been training as an assistant manager, so are well aware of the misconceptions of a manager's duties. We don’t need to tell you it’s more than being in charge of the store and keeping customers happy.

Your new role also involves being in charge of the store’s sales targets, managing and motivating staff, keeping an eye on stock levels and reordering supplies. You’ll also need to stick to company policies and set an example to your employees. It's a lot of work to juggle, but it's worth it.

Not sure what skills you're going to require to do the job? Read our job profile.

How to keep the team happy.

Keeping your team happy and motivated will become one of the most important parts of your job, without their support you’re in serious trouble, and may as well start shutting up the shop now. So how do you keep your staff happy while still getting their respect?

Take an interest: Your staff have a life outside work, so take an interest in it. Ask them about their weekend plans, or congratulate them on some good news, whatever it is, show you're capable of talking about more than the weekly sales targets. Showing an interest makes your team feel valued and lets them know they’re more than just another member of staff.

Keep them in the loop: Inform your staff about key changes in the business, remember they’re part of the company too. Hold regular meetings and update everyone with sales performances, highlighting positive things and drawing them to what needs more attention. If you go to an important meeting, give them an overview of what was discussed and, in particular, any new policies that may impact on them.

Compliments cost nothing: Always compliment your staff when they've done something well or improved their skills, this shows you’re aware of their individual performances. Good managers nurture their staff and don’t intimidate them, you won’t get anywhere by being a scary ogre. If you want your staff to abide by the rules, you’ve got to earn their respect first.

If in doubt, just remember how you liked to be treated before you became a manager. Or you can just read our guide on how to motivate your team members.

Management styles

If you’re still lost and unsure about how to manage your team effectively, don’t panic! There are several different styles of management you can try.

Hands-on management

Kay Herniman, manager of Fred Perry in Manchester, has worked in retail management for many years, including working in fashion jobs in Oasis and Selfridges. She says: “As soon as some people reach management level they see it as a green light to not do anything anymore and literally stand around barking orders at everyone. Obviously, this doesn’t go down too well. But it’s also important to give your staff some responsibility.

“I used to try and do everything in store and my staff members viewed this as mistrusting. I’ve now learned to delegate well. I think it’s important to get the balance between the two, always be prepared to get your hands dirty and don’t expect anyone to do anything you wouldn’t. I always help unload deliveries and have been known to clean the toilets!”

The delegator

Although it’s important to be aware of everything that’s going on, don’t do everything yourself, remember as manager it’s now your job to delegate. As long as you know what needs to be done, you can designate the best person for the each job and your store will still run efficiently. By giving out work to staff you’re also giving them additional responsibilities to enhance their skills, ultimately giving you a stronger workforce, it's a win win situation.

Calm and collected

Stay calm in a crisis and leave the excitement to your staff; remember if anything goes wrong the staff will look to you to lead the way. If you’re running round like a headless chicken or getting excited at the prospect of a snow day, you can’t expect to have the respect of your team.

One manager admitted she always found it exciting in the past when there was heavy snow as it gave her an excuse to be late for work. When she became a manager she realised what an immature attitude it was and now stands by the motto, if she can get to work on time then all her members of staff should also be able to.

Being the baddie.

If you’ve been in the company a while, you’re bound to have made some friends, and though you can still maintain good relationships, you can’t be their best mates all the time, sometimes you’ve got to be the baddie and get involved with staffing issues such as redundancy and disciplinary action.

Sadly, being manager often means you can’t be popular with everyone. Sounds daunting, but you’ll be trained to deal with these matters. Despite your personal relationships with your team, as harsh as it may sound, your loyalty is to your company, and so you must behave professionally until the end of the work day.

Kay also recalls the common problem of managing colleagues you used to work alongside with. She says: “When I was first promoted to assistant manager, I was still really friendly with all the girls I had been working for a long time. My manager advised me to take a step back as it would be difficult to question someone when you’ve discovered they’ve pulled a sickie, if they view you as a friend.”

Be prepared to be unpopular

As manager it’s your job to make it clear from the start what you expect from everyone who works for you. If your team don’t know what they’re meant to be doing or have clear boundaries of what their roles are, they won’t perform well. Remember, they aren’t mind-readers; you can’t expect them to inherently know what you require from them, so give them guidance, monitor them and give feedback.

Not everyone in your team will stick to the rules, and as their manager, you’ll need to discipline your staff from time to time, it’s not a pleasant job but someone has got to do it. Always do this in private and be firm but fair, tread carefully and try to make your criticism constructive. Show them you’re still one of the team and own up to your mistakes and show how you learned from them, it will give your workers the confidence to do the same.

As a manager, you are fundamentally responsible for the whole team. You are the voice of reasoning for the group when dealing with company-wide issues. If your team let you down, you have to take it on the chin, but equally if they do well, you can be credited with the success – and that is the most rewarding part of the job.

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