The very nature of the retailing industry demands frequent checks on the internal functioning of the store. There are a variety of operations that the store manager must oversee: daily opening and closing of the building, assuring that the store facilities and equipment are working, seeing that the merchandise is properly displayed and that stock levels are consistent with targets, and inspecting the store for cleanliness and adequate security. Additionally the store managers are responsible for staffing the store. Although they may not take part in every step, they make the final decisions.
A continuing responsibility of the store manager is customer service. Many comments and complaints are handled at the salesperson level, but when a problem is big enough to warrant attention by the store manager, immediate attention is required. The success of the store depends on the customers, and the store manager's first priority must be the satisfaction of the patrons.
The majority of the store manager's time is spent communicating with members of the management team-the managers and department managers; the sales support groups including advertising, accounting, operations, receiving, shipping, and sales auditing; and the corporate officers of the firm.
Weekly meetings are held with sales personnel to make them aware of the items that are selling well, those that are not, and why. Meetings with various other personnel are held regularly to discuss expenses, sales figures, current trends, long- and short-term plans, merchandising, and employee performance.
In order to track current business, economic situations, and the store's performance in relation to them, up-to-date analyses of sales and expense figures are a continual process. With this information, it is the responsibility of the store manager to determine which departments and categories are doing well, and which aren't, and why. After careful study, the store manager specifies actions to be taken in order to capitalize on opportunities and minimize losses.
The store manager's budget is determined and presented to him by the central management. There is room for alterations, but such changes require thorough support from the store's operating statistics. A key point in the store manager's evaluation by corporate headquarters is the sales growth shown by the store, in comparison with other stores and in keeping with the constraints set by the budget.
A critical aspect of the store manager's responsibilities deals with the store's customers. As mentioned previously, this is a high priority and demands much time. In addition to dealing with complaints, the store manager must spend time interacting with the customers in order to better understand the current direction of the business. Customers determine what sells well and what doesn't. Thus, store managers make considerable efforts to observe and communicate with customers firsthand.
The store manager position entails both tremendous responsibility and great potential satisfaction, financially and intellectually. One is required to make quick decisions with major consequences. A crucial aspect of the position is one of serving as liaison between the central headquarters and the store. The store manager must interpret the goals and objectives of the central headquarters and operate an efficient and profitable retail outlet within the established budget and policy constraints.
Q - How did you get into retailing?
A - Upon graduation I had a teaching minor and was unable to find any kind of teaching job in the field of history or government, which would have been applicable. I was talking to my supervisor at a department store where I worked in the summer, and she suggested that I get into retailing because I had been such a tremendous salesperson.
I was recruited out of college by a department store out of Chicago. They were recruiting on the campus, and I was invited to the store to see the facilities and so forth. I met some of the principals, went around the store, decided it was interesting enough, and I thought I might like to pursue it. So I took a position there in Chicago as the assistant buyer in the men's department. At the same time, there was a sort of a minitraining program to introduce you to all the various poli cies, procedures, and so forth.
Is it possible to generalize among retailers across the country?
The life style of the country today does make a difference in the mission of a particular department. There are differences in life styles but you're really buying to an area. Those aren't things that are unknowns. They're very apparent, the forms may have different headings on them and different titles, but essentially they're all the same. The training programs are similar. The approach to doing business is very similar.
Each company has its own personality. In that respect there is a great difference. But I'd say that in terms of the overall goals of any of the companies, we're pretty much the same. The responsibility of a buyer is really profit. And the responsibility of a store-line individual is generally volume. That doesn't seem to vary all that much. You've really got to pick the personality of the individual and the personality of the store and marry them up.
Q - How are you evaluated?
A - They look at the volume compared with the previous year's volume. They look at our percentage growth compared with the other stores. They look at how our gross margin percentages have varied from the previous year.
One of the most important things that they consider is my ability to deal with the central buying line in terms of helping them get what they need out of the store and also getting what the store needs from them. Another important thing is my ability to train the managers underneath me, so that they are capable of moving into buyership.
I'm evaluated on the performance of this store; everything ultimately ends up black and white.