The supermarket sector is a busy, challenging and rewarding area of retail to get into. Supermarket Store Managers are some of the best paid and most interesting positions in the industry, and so the roles are popular despite being demanding and competitive.
How to start
Managers within supermarket retail work their way through a variety of roles, either within the same supermarket chain, or through moving around between different retailers. Larger supermarkets will have dozens of managers specialising in different areas of the shop floor, back office and warehouse management. Most supermarket store managers will have extensive experience in all aspects of the shops operation, including night team work, home delivery, stock management and ordering, managing security and specialist sections like the fishmongers and deli counter, although different firms will have different specific demands regarding experience. All major supermarkets have excellent internal development and succession programmes, so your career will be accelerated if you show aptitude to manage.
Some managers move between different areas of retail, such as moving to supermarkets from general merchandise or fashion retail, but specialist training is then needed to ensure that the more complicated legal processes and procedures involved in food retail are fully understood, and some sideways (or even backwards) step may be needed to break into the supermarket industry.
So how can you succeed as a supermarket Store Manager? Although the beauty of such a large and varied sector is that all different management styles can success, there are some skills you need to succeed anywhere in the industry:
Coaching and delegation
By the time you have made your first Store Manager appointment, you will be experienced in all aspects of running your shop, from stock control and compliance, customer service and people management policy and process. The trick now, is to use coaching and delegation effectively to let those who are the experts in your team, and are therefore paid to manage the detail of these areas, get on with their jobs. You can then focus on the more global and strategic challenges that are the domain of the Store manager.
Have a structure
You must know your stuff, but don’t get dragged into the depths of detail - a useful measure is to know what questions you need to ask of each of your specialists to make sure you’re confident in their ability to deliver. Plan in regular, structured meetings with your key team members to get updated on their progress and satisfy yourself that you’re in control. Don’t leave it to chance, or trust your team blindly, but don’t meddle with details either.
Have trusted advisors
In the Store Manager role, it is vital to have a trusted circle of people at all levels to keep you connected. Your immediate, more senior managers, should be people you can absolutely trust, but it is important also to have key colleagues at other levels, the checkout operators, supervisors and junior managers. Knowing everyone, from the cleaners, the outsourced security guys, the weekend colleagues who work a few hours for pocket money, right up to the Trade Union reps, the long serving colleagues who see, hear, and know everything, will help you maintain control and confidence in everything that is going on in your four walls.
Know and respect your team
In a large supermarket you may have six or seven hundred colleagues working for you - knowing them is no mean feat. Find out a bit about as many of your team as possible - simply remembering a few details like kids’ names and ages, who has been on holiday or off sick, allows you to strike up conversations that build relationships and help you motivate and inspire. Remember the impact a hello or a criticism can have from such a senior position, and deploy wisely - say hello to everyone, don’t walk past something you see that is wrong, but don’t overlook fantastic performance either - a thank you and well done is a powerful tool.
More than many roles, the Store Manager leads by example. Put the customer first and the sales will follow. Treat your team well and they’ll deliver. Remember what is important in your job - by now you will be an experienced retailer, but it can be easy to miss the wood for the trees in the buzz of a busy week. Most of us who make a career out of retail do so because we are passionate about customer service, and in no role is this more important than that of the Store Manager. You set the tone for your team, and may have hundreds of people following what you do. If you deliver excellent service, so will your people.
Don’t forget also, you’re an advocate for a much maligned sector. Talk to people about your career path and help them see the possibilities themselves. Sponsor those you see as high potential to deliver bigger roles. Grow the people around you, and be prepared to be flexible and take risks on those you rate, they will become your senior confidantes of the future.
Be a part of your community
As - most likely- one of the largest private sector employers in the town you live in, you have the unusual position of being able to really impact your community. Join the town centre partnership, the chamber of commerce, help support the development of the town, find charities and local organisations that you can help, with gestures that will mean little to you, but a lot to them - allow your team to support a local town event, organise a team day to a local school to help out, send some flowers or seasonal treats to a local old peoples home. Some of this outreach work will pay back, with recognition, return business and status. But more importantly it will allow you and your team to feel good about the role you play in your community.
The role of supermarket Store Manager is a stretching and varied position, perfect for those who enjoy a challenge, and have a sense of pace and urgency and an ability to see what really matters in their work. Once you get there, remembering these few tips will help you succeed and thrive.