Similar Titles

Store Manager, Sales Operations Manager, Retail Operations Manager, Sales Team Manager, Retail Supervisor, Sales and Merchandising Manager, Retail Store Director, District Sales Manager, Regional Sales Manager, Sales and Marketing Manager, Merchandising Manager, Sales Manager, Sales Representative

Job Description

We’ve all been in stores and seen the displays of retail merchandise for sale. But rarely do we think about the “behind-the-scenes” of how all those products get there. That’s where Merchandise/Retail Sales Managers come in! They manage daily retail operations to ensure shoppers have access to an assortment of products—which the store hopes to sell so it can make a profit and continue its business. 

A lot of work goes into selecting, ordering, receiving, pricing, and stocking merchandise on shelves and in displays. That’s why Merchandise/Retail Sales Managers don’t work alone; they usually lead a team that may include salespeople, stockers, cashiers, customer service clerks, and even security personnel. But at the end of the day, it’s up to the managers to make sure customers are getting the shopping experiences they want, so they’ll keep coming back! 

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Learning how retail businesses operate 
  • Being part of a close-knit team that ensures customer satisfaction and helps boost company profits
  • Good salary prospects with the potential for bonuses or commissions
  • Receiving employee benefits, including store discounts
2022 Employment
2032 Projected Employment
Job Responsibilities

Working Schedule

  • Merchandise/Retail Sales Managers work full-time, sometimes at night or on weekends. Overtime may be necessary during busy seasons or events.  

Typical Duties

  • Review sales data to assess shopping trends and adjust inventory and sales plans accordingly
  • Leverage technological tools to identify shopping habits 
  • Establish budgets and project estimated sales and profits
  • Decide upon discount and promotional pricing for suitable merchandise or events
  • Establish customer acquisition and retention strategies
  • Determine the most effective marketing tactics
  • Listen to and attempt to resolve sales- or service-related customer issues
  • Manage or assign someone to manage inventory, including taking stock of items, receiving deliveries, reviewing invoices, and using inventory tracking software
  • Work with sales team members and assign areas of responsibility
  • Set reasonable sales quotas
  • Organize training sessions and ensure training is documented and kept up-to-date
  • Invest in team development so teams can become more effective and productive
  • Provide timely feedback to employees about performance and inspire them to set and achieve goals
  • Meet with marketing and advertising teams, warehouse managers, or research and design departments, as needed
  • Interview and hire new workers
  • Collaborate with dealers, distributors, and other external partners

Additional Responsibilities

  • Understand and use point-of-sale and time-accounting programs, as needed
  • Look for product cross-selling opportunities
  • Review sales pitches, presentations, and other ideas to boost sales
  • Review theft data and work with staff to mitigate losses 
  • Cooperate with law enforcement agencies, as applicable 
  • Review and update standard operating procedures
Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Analytical
  • Attention to detail
  • Communication skills
  • Customer service 
  • Decisive
  • Dependable 
  • Flexible 
  • Goal-oriented
  • Independent 
  • Initiative
  • Innovative
  • Integrity 
  • Leadership 
  • Motivated
  • Organized
  • Patient 
  • Problem-solving
  • Teamwork

Technical Skills

  • Ability to train others 
  • Familiarity with products being sold
  • General math skills
  • Inventory management software
  • Effective sales strategies and customer service
  • Point of sale programs and equipment
  • Retail sales environments and store operations
  • Sales and marketing programs 
  • Transaction security software
  • Understanding of organized retail theft
Different Types of Organizations
  • Retail stores
  • Wholesale traders
  • Manufacturers 
Expectations and Sacrifices

Merchandise/Retail Sales Managers bear much of the responsibility for ensuring businesses are profitable. When a business fails to make money, it risks going out of business! Thus, in a sense, everyone’s job security depends, at least in part, on the performance of the sales manager. 

Because of this, the position entails a fair amount of stress. It also involves working overtime during holidays and other major sales event days, like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and Amazon Prime Day. 

Current Trends

E-commerce makes up a significant portion of all retail sales these days. Online shopping is convenient, features wider product selections, and offers the potential for savings compared to buying the same item in-store. That’s why retailers continue to invest heavily in online stores and apps. 

Meanwhile, customers have gotten used to more personalized experiences thanks to companies leveraging online data analytics to deliver customized campaigns, promotions, and product recommendations. 

This has contributed to customers demanding even more, sparking competition between businesses that are fighting over the same target consumers. Thus, companies are turning to omnichannel retailing, integrating experiences between physical stores, websites, and mobile apps to offer more seamless and consistent shopping experiences. 

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were younger…

Sales professionals are often outgoing and motivated to use their talents to earn more money. They tend to have a solid work ethic and may have started working at a young age. Many exhibit an entrepreneurial mindset early on, launching their own small business ventures. They feel confident and comfortable talking to others, a trait that could have come from participating in extracurricular activities in school or simply from being part of a big family. 

Education and Training Needed
  • A high school diploma or GED is generally needed, but a college degree isn’t necessary for all positions. 
  • Per O*Net, 65% of sales managers have a bachelor’s degree. Common undergraduate majors are business, marketing, and accounting or finance. Ideally, students select an area of focus that involves retail sales
  • Vast retail sales experience is arguably the most commonly sought-after trait that employers look for in applicants (with five years’ worth of experience being the norm)
  • Many employers hire from within, meaning they promote current employees into management positions. Businesses often provide On-the-Job training for new sales managers and may send them to courses to hone their skills
  • There are numerous certification options that can help managers boost their credentials, such as:
Things to look for in an University
  • Students should seek colleges offering majors in business, marketing, or accounting and finance, with a minor in retail sales or merchandising
  • Look for programs that feature internships or other opportunities to gain practical experience
  • Always compare the costs of tuition and other fees. Review your options for scholarships and financial aid
  • See if the program has any partnerships with companies that hire grads! 
  • Take note of graduation and job placement statistics for alumni 
Things to do in High School and College
  • High school students should take courses in business, finance, math, English, communications, information technology, statistics, psychology, and speech or debate
  • Knowledge of a second language may be useful in many areas, so consider taking classes or doing self-study
  • Participate in extracurricular activities where you can learn about teamwork, leadership, management, and project management 
  • Having sales experience is vital. Look for part-time jobs where you can rack up some sales or other retail experience 
  • A college degree isn’t always needed but will boost your credentials. A degree in business with a minor or concentration in retail management might provide the best educational foundation for some job openings, but others may want more of an accounting background 
  • Apply for relevant internships, through your school or on your own
  • Read magazines and website articles related to retail and merchandising
  • Consider doing ad hoc courses via Coursera or other sites to learn more about retail topics
  • Request an informational interview with a retail manager at a local store. See if you can shadow one for a few hours 
Typical Roadmap
Merchandise / Retail Sales Manager Roadmap
How to Land your 1st job
  • Check out job portals like, LinkedIn, Glassdoor, Monster, CareerBuilder, SimplyHired, or ZipRecruiter
  • Don’t expect to start at a managerial level! Unless you already have years of relevant work experience, you’ll need to apply to entry-level positions first
    • Many smaller jobs are advertised by local employers on Craigslist 
  • Review job postings closely and compare their required qualifications to your own background. Apply for the jobs you’re best qualified for, and continue to work on building up those qualifications! 
  • Stay in touch with your classmates and use your network to get job tips. Most jobs are still found through personal connections 
  • Ask your instructors or old bosses if they’re willing to serve as personal references
  • Check out some Retail Sales Manager resume examples and sample interview questions
  • Practice doing mock interviews and always dress appropriately for interviews
  • Consider relocating to an area with more job openings. States like California, Illinois, New York, Florida, and Massachusetts have the highest employment levels for sales managers in general, per the Bureau of Labor Statistics
How to Climb the Ladder
  • Keep track of what’s working in the retail industry, and use the knowledge to boost sales and avoid problems 
  • Become proficient in all software programs you need to know, whether it is for inventory or customer relationship management 
  • Train your team members well and develop strong, effective teams. Create a welcoming, motivational work environment 
  • Resolve customer issues quickly and try to ensure every customer feels satisfied and willing to continue doing business with your employer’s store. It’s much more cost-effective to keep an existing customer than to capture a new one
    • “Increasing customer retention by 5% can increase profits from 25-95%,” notes Outbound Engine. “The success rate of selling to a customer you already have is 60-70%, while the success rate of selling to a new customer is 5-20%.”
  • Communicate regularly with leadership, stakeholders, and third parties to ensure sales objectives and timeframes are clearly defined and attainable  
  • Tell your supervisor you’re interested in career progression and ask for their advice
  • Earn a professional certification such as the National Association of Sales Professionals’ Certified Professional Sales Leader
  • Consider earning a business or other related degree if you don’t have one (or a graduate degree, if you already have a bachelor’s)
  • Keep active in professional organizations like the National Retail Federation, National Sales Network, or Professional Sales Association 
  • Continue to grow your network—and your reputation as a retail industry professional!
Plan B

The salary potential and job outlook for Merchandise/Retail Sales Managers both look pretty good. Still, this job isn't for everyone. The level of responsibility is high and the hours can get crazy during busy seasons. It also takes a few years of working in the industry to get qualified for a managerial position. 

If you’re curious about some related career options, consider the below similar occupations! 

  • Advertising, Promotions, and Marketing Manager
  • Insurance Sales Agent
  • Market Research Analyst
  • Public Relations and Fundraising Manager
  • Purchasing Manager, Buyer, and Purchasing Agent
  • Retail Sales Worker
  • Sales Engineer
  • Wholesale and Manufacturing Sales Representative


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