Examining the Different Management Positions in the Retail Industry


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The retail industry is one that can often get a bad reputation. Let’s face it, working in a customer service based industry isn’t always easy, as it can be difficult to keep customers happy and satisfied. With that said, there are all different types and levels of positions worth investigating. While people often focus on the entry-level sales positions, the retail industry also offers its fair share of management opportunities.

Unsure of what management positions actually exist in the retail industry and you want to learn more? Here we’ll examine a number of management positions that require extra skills, knowledge, and experience and in return offer that higher level of responsibility and salary.

Department Manager/First Line Supervisor

In this position, you'll be working at the store level, but you will have a management position. A department manager or first-line supervisor will be responsible for managing one department within the store. What this means is that one retail location could have a number of department managers. Each department manager reports to the store manager. This is often the first step in the management path within the retail sector.

Store Manager

As a store manager, you will have a more senior-level position than that of a department manager. The department managers will be reporting to you so you can take on more of the big picture issues.

Your duties can include:

  • Supervising department managers
  • Supervising staff
  • Reporting to district manager
  • Supervising inventory
  • Dealing with customer service issues directly

For those who have an eye on a district manager position, the role of store manager is usually seen as a stepping stone to the more senior-level job.

Assistant Store Manager

This one is very similar to the store manager, except you aren’t as senior as the store manager. The assistant will be the store manager’s “left hand” if you will, offering them support wherever needed. Sometimes you’ll need to spend time as an assistant store manager and get that experience before you can apply as a store manager.

District Manager

As a district manager, it is usually up to you to supervise an entire district worth of locations rather than just one store. It could mean you have anywhere from a couple of locations to dozens, depending on the company itself.

District managers typically travel from store to store on a regular basis, checking in with managers, supervisors, and employees to ensure that each location is adhering to the company standards. Your responsibilities can include training, evaluating, mentoring, and troubleshooting various problems that pop up within your district.

You will most likely be reporting back to senior management to keep them abreast of what's happening at the store level.

In order to excel in this position, some of the skills you'll need are:

  • Good people skills
  • Excellent communication skills
  • An eye for detail
  • The ability to lead and manage
  • The ability to multi-task
  • Incredible organizational skills
  • Excellent analytical skills

Operations Manager

Then there is the position of operation manager, which is a pivotal role in many companies. This position is found in companies that offer a product or service to its customer, and need a person that will oversee all the operations and production in that business.

As for your exact responsibilities and duties, these tend to differ based on the company itself. They can include such things as:

  1. Managing quality assurance programs
  2. Hiring employees
  3. Training employees
  4. Supervising employees
  5. Overseeing production
  6. Looking for ways to make production more efficient
  7. Creating strategies that can be used to increase productivity and efficiency

In terms of which industries tend to offer the highest salary in operations management, from highest to lowest they are:

  • Management of companies and enterprises
  • Restaurants and other eateries
  • Management, scientific, and technical consulting
  • Computer systems design
  • Local government (excluding hospitals and schools)

For those who want to learn more about operations management, how to obtain a masters in the program, and start off on the career path, be sure to click here.

Training Manager

There are a number of retailers that also have a training manager. As a training manager, you are a specialist in terms of human resources. It will be up to you to recruit, hire, and train new employees. You'll also be the one in charge of employee relations, benefits administration, and more.

Training managers can be found at the store level and within head office. It really depends on how large of a retail company it is, and what its needs are.

Inventory Control Specialist

While this one may not be the first to pop in your mind, an inventory control specialist actually plays a very important role in the management team. Depending on the size of the retail company, the inventory control specialist may be located at the store or head office.

Common responsibilities of this job include:

  1. Preventing loss
  2. Maintaining inventory
  3. Tracking inventory
  4. Controlling the flow of inventory
  5. Coming up with systems to prevent loss and then implement them
  6. Making reports about loss, demand, defects, inventory quantity, and more
  7. Receiving products, which includes quality control

Lead Buyer

Then there is the buyer, who is responsible for purchasing the merchandise that will then be sold in stores. This is a head-office position since you will be buying for all locations. It will be up to you to research customer trends, buying habits, exciting or new products down the pipeline, finding the best and most competitive prices, and so forth. You will be working with manufacturers, suppliers, and vendors rather than customers.

A Long List of Management Opportunities

As you can well see from this list, there is no shortage of management opportunities that exist within the retail industry. Assuming that sales are the be-all and end-all simply isn’t true. This is the kind of industry where you can really get your foot in the door and then start to work up the career ladder.

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