The recession has redefined the store manager’s role and many have thrived, finds Liz Morrell

The recession has had a huge impact across the retail industry but one positive outcome has been the creation of a new breed of super store managers, according to some in the recruitment sector.

Reed Retail head of business Peter Sherlock believes the store manager has evolved during the recession to become a bigger and better operator than ever before. This has been driven by both the need for top performance in store but also the requirement for store managers to really prove themselves to keep their jobs.

Many retailers’ rationalisation of area manager positions has required store managers to take on more responsibility and become more self-reliant.

“We have seen an increase not only in the number of store managers, but also in the quality of store managers both required and on the market,” says Sherlock.

The recession has meant that those who can drive sales and motivate teams have become sought after. Those that couldn’t meet those standards didn’t keep their jobs. “That has led to a more resilient breed of manager who is more resourceful, takes on more responsibility and is a higher calibre of manager than pre-recession,” says Sherlock.

For those retailers that are already confident in the capability of their store managers, they may assume nothing needs to be done. But as the economy crawls out of the recession and store managers’ confidence in job hunting returns, retailers must be careful to retain good staff.

“Retailers need to make sure they have their own internal talent pool properly assessed and identified and a clearly defined career footpath to stop good staff looking elsewhere,” he says.

Tactics such as offering secondments to other stores or dual-site management may also help to stop store managers from becoming bored with their role.

“It would be very dangerous for retailers to think that because their store manager has ridden through the bad times and produced good results they are happy,” says Sherlock.

Pets at Home HR director Ryan Cheyne says retailers must also ensure they don’t judge their store managers on numbers alone and adds: “There is a whole tranche of store managers out there who have perhaps not traded through such tough times, so there has been a learning curve in terms of having to manage in a more challenging environment.”

But because retailers are driven by positive numbers, it can create frustration - store managers might be doing right but the sales figures might not reflect that, he explains. “As retailers we have to be realistic in our demands and keep spirits up,” he says.

The Ideal Candidate

How to get, and keep, a good store manager:

  • Redefine what you want from a store manager
  • Ensure expectations of numbers are realistic
  • Consider secondments or extra responsibility for store managers who may be considering new challenges
  • Be aware that the distinction between a good and a bad store manager may not be so obvious anymore