Retail managers are on the front line of retail businesses every day. To do their jobs well, they need smart retail management strategies. That’s everything from managing daily operations to ensuring customer satisfaction to employee relations.
A good retail manager keeps the store efficient and functional. But the best store leaders elevate the entire team. Their retail management strategy is realistic and responsive, allowing them to navigate obstacles and lead their store to better performance and profitability.
If serious retail leaders don’t keep their skills sharp, sales will suffer.
Below, we’ll share tips to take your retail management to the next level. We’ll walk through 6 ways to be a better retail manager.
6 things effective retail managers do differently from the rest
This is how top-tier retail managers give their stores an edge over the competition.
1. Embrace industry-specific technology tools
There’s no reason to rely on manual data entry. Today, retail managers have access to a wide range of technology to track inventory, sales, scheduling and more. In fact, 64% of store managers say they use some sort of technology to check store inventory.
In most cases, a store manager’s go-to tool will be the retail point-of-sale (POS) system. That’s an all-in-one management system equipped to handle one business location or several. With it, retail managers save time while getting the high-level insights they need to do the job.
And a technology-enhanced store experience ticks all the boxes for modern consumers.
2. Equip employees for success
It’s no secret that the retail sector struggles with high employee turnover. With minimum wage costs rising, retail stores may be limited to even fewer workers. Even if you’re not feeling a crunch with labor, your goal should still be to build a multifunctional, high-performing team.
Start by standardizing your training process for different types of employees. Your seasonal, part-time and full-time workers need different degrees of information.
Implement one-on-one coaching with employees until they’re up to speed. It’s a good idea to develop some role-playing sales scenarios. That way, employees, new or old, know how to handle a situation when you’re away.
Once a team member understands their responsibilities, it’s time to consider cross-training. This can alleviate gaps if you need someone to fill in for a coworker. As a bonus, it makes your team more adaptive and gives them better insight into how the store runs.
3. Motivate and mentor employees
Motivating your employees is a key piece of employee retention. There are plenty of creative ways to reward your employees for a job well done. It doesn’t always have to be a raise or bonus.
One option is to highlight achievements during your regular meetings. Recognize employee wins in both retail sales and customer service. Then discuss how these practices can be applied across the board.
The most effective retail managers create a sense of trust and camaraderie. Let your staff members know they can come to you with ideas or requests.
A unified team is an effective team.
4. Make decisions based on actual store data
Retail business owners trust store managers to make their own strategic decisions about goals and policies.
Why not use your store’s real-time data to schedule shifts and set goals? Using a POS system, review your metrics, like peak store hours and sales by employee. Then make informed decisions.
Apply this metric-based mentality to all areas of your operations. Determine your lowest-selling items, for example, and arrange them into a more effective product display (we cover this below). You can even let employees check their progress on sales goals you’ve set.
Data-driven decision-making is always easier to back up to your supervisors.
5. Stay engaged with customers
Customers should always be at the center of your retail strategy. If customers don’t feel valued, they’ll just leave your store. Walk the store often. Stay familiar with who you’re selling to. Be engaged.
A POS system simplifies customer relationship management in a multi-channel world. See helpful customer data, like purchase history and favorite products. Use social media to answer customer questions and recommend items.
Take time to do a deeper dive into understanding your market segment. Your audience may even have changed since you first opened shop.
Consider taking the time to write out answers to the following questions. Who is your business attracting? How did customers hear about you? Are customers buying when and how you think they are?
Staying competitive in retail depends on identifying opportunities before the competition does.
6. Refresh visual merchandising and store design
Customers want to experience your products in a tangible way—seeing, touching or trying them on. This is the top reason consumers choose to shop in physical stores rather than online.
When customers enter your store, make sure there’s an immersive shopping experience waiting for them.
Your store design, signage and displays are powerful tools to establish your brand. IKEA is a great example of a company that combines high-converting product displays with brand experience. Experienced retail managers freshen up product displays often to stimulate sales and entice new customers.
Store managers also need to think about whether they’re optimizing revenue per square foot. When customers can easily see how a product fits into their life, they’re more likely to buy it.
Check out our guide to the perfect retail layout.
Challenges (and solutions) for store managers in the retail industry
In a 2017 survey, retail store managers said their biggest three challenges were order fulfillment, limited staffing and inventory visibility. Do any of these sound familiar?
In retail, change is a given. Consumer trends shift quickly, and no change is a better example than the rise of e-commerce. Online shopping didn’t run brick-and-mortar stores out of town—they simply gave businesses a new way to sell.
An estimated 41% of retail managers now offer buy online, pick up in-store services. Another 40% give customers the option to buy in-store and have products shipped to their homes, and 38% allow customers to buy online and complete returns in-store.
That’s a lot of buying options. And some retail managers struggle to adjust their order fulfillment processes. Take some time to make sure you’re offering your customers the options that make the most sense for them.
Whatever options you offer your customers, make sure the process is smooth.
Labor shortages hit retail businesses particularly hard. That’s because the vast majority (98%) of all retail businesses have 50 employees or less. Recruiting and retention are always challenging, but there are options.
Start by following our employee management tips above to develop a high-performance culture. If you have fewer employees, focus on hitting productivity and sales goals. And don’t forget the importance of solid customer service.
The ultimate goal is that your employees are equipped to serve customers, whether you’re on-site or not.
Recruiting and retention are always challenging.
Nearly one-third of retail managers say inaccurate inventory data is a leading cause of stock issues. If your team members can’t tell customers what’s in stock, your store looks disorganized and unprofessional.
A small business POS can make a dramatic difference. With a cloud-based inventory management system, you can set up stock alerts and even automatic reordering.
Struggling with shrinkage? A POS system gives you insight into where inventory is going. Use that data to identify problems with your return policy, theft or supplier mistakes.
If your team members can’t tell customers what’s in stock, your store looks disorganized and unprofessional.
Leading the charge
Retail store managers wear many hats. They’re part manager, part sales associate, part customer service representative, part mentor and part marketing specialist.
Start addressing the challenges of retail leadership today by investing in your team and your technology. Take a look at your current employee training process. Are there ongoing knowledge checks? Have you asked employees with the most sales for feedback on the onboarding program? Are you actively seeking ways to make yourself and your team better?
The biggest challenge is to simply remain engaged and involved. You’ll never run out of ways to improve your retail strategy, so never stop looking.