Retail Tips and Tricks: Leadership Pitfalls of New Store Managers

Often, as part of our retail consulting practice, one of the things that we see time and time again is that the quickest route to being promoted to store management is to be a great sales person.  In fact, we recently had this confirmed again when we were engaged by a national specialty retailer of luxury goods to assist them with the development of their retail management training program

Now, for many retailers – including this one – selling is a major responsibility for store managers.  But it is certainly not the only part of their job description.  They also need to grow sales and profits by managing through others. 

With that in mind, here is my interpretation of nine key pitfalls for managers and leaders of retail stores (original list is courtesy of American Express’ Small Business Open Forum):

Not accepting responsibility for mistakes – If a team member makes an error, some of the blame falls on the store leader.  So instead of playing the blame game, help team members learn from errors.

 Reprimanding employees out in public – Make sure you follow the old adage of “praise in public and reprimand in private.”

 Failing to be truthful – One of the key values that we preach in our retail management training seminars is “to tell the truth – both good and bad.”  Even if you need to deliver bad news or enforce standards you will always get better results if you are candid, respectful and truthful.

 Setting unrealistic goals – If you were promoted to management because of your sales ability it is likely that you were ranked in the top 5 or 10% of performers in your company.  It may be unreasonable to expect your employees to perform like you did.  Instead give them reasonable targets that allow them to improve on their results month-after-month.

Threatening team member's jobs – Obviously if someone is violating policy or failing to achieve to minimum standard you should give them coaching and counseling.  But never threaten their livelihood unless you are prepared for them to leave immediately.  Otherwise you are only asking for trouble.

Providing vague or incomplete instructions – It's frustrating not knowing exactly what you are supposed to do our how to do it because you know you could be reprimanded for failure.  Instead give your team members clear goals and the retail training that they need to achieve them.

Micromanaging retail sales associates – Now that you have given your team members reasonable targets and provided the tools and retail training they need to succeed, let them run!  Check in on their work periodically, but do not hover.  It is distracting and demoralizing!

Failing to offer enough praise – While you may think that an employee’s salary and/or commission should be enough of a reward and motivation, studies by major research universities have shown time and again that most people are motivated by recognition and praise just as much as by money.

Holding workers back when they are ready for promotion – I bet you knew when you were due for a promotion or a raise…Well your team members do as well. 

Would you like to learn more about ways you can improve your retail managers’ results?  Contact us for a free one-hour consultation and needs analysis or to inquire about our retail sales training seminars and on-line retail courses

–          Retail Advocacy Group offers consulting services for retailers and also offers retail training solutions through its Retail Training Services subsidiary.   You can also learn more about instructor-led, e-learning, and other training solutions for retailers at