Retail Industry Suffering From Shortage Of Managers

The retail industry needs more managers, reports USA Today—people entering the workforce don’t usually consider retail a viable career path: “Students find banking, technology and other fields more promising because there’s more ‘growth potential, a better work/life balance and a clear career path.'” The average salary for a retail manager in the U.S. isn’t too shabby—almost $84,000—but that comes with strange hours, thankless tasks, and an odd mixture of job requirements that combines being responsible for a store’s success and mentoring youths, while at the same time not being able to decide what to stock or how the store’s brand is managed nationally, and having to deal with employees who often have little incentive to perform well.

For many, the career is more like what former retail manager Norm Feuti, who now pens a syndicated cartoon called Retail, remembers.

“You don’t really have any control over what goes on. You put the displays where they (corporate executives) want them. You carry the products they want. They set the prices. And the computer systems reorder your merchandise,” says Feuti, who worked in retail management until 2002. “But when it comes to sales, you get none of the credit and all of the blame.”

The article talks to a 35-year-old Toys R Us manager who’s been in the business since her early 20s and seems to really love her work. “‘The busier I am, the more I enjoy it,’ says Koteski. ‘Stress is different for each person.'” Koteski is unmarried and has no children, though, which only reinforces the idea that it’s not the most obvious career choice if you want to raise a traditional family, as a former manager makes clear:

Katey Morse was recruited to be an assistant manager for Ann Taylor Loft (ANN) in 2003 while she was working as a Coach (COH) store assistant manager in Grand Rapids, Mich. She now works as a personal banker for Chase. Morse, who is pregnant with her first child, says she knew the hours in retail management wouldn’t be conducive to raising a family. Besides, she says, “The compensation is pathetic when you figure out how many hours you were expected to work.”

“Wanted: Retail managers” [USA Today]
(Photo: Getty)


Edit Your Comment

  1. UpsetPanda says:

    Honestly, I think people don’t go into store management because there’s just no respect for people in that industry. It’s not about the money…it’s about the respect. Consumers walk all over cashiers and people who they see as ‘below’ their level. “Yeah, I make $84,000 managing a J.C. Penny.” “Really? You work at a J.C. Penny?!” is what they get, not that they make a decent amount of money.

  2. pineappleclock says:

    The perpetuated mentality of “the customer is always right” has turned retail work from a respectable trade into a dehumanizing one, and most people don’t want to be abused at work by customers that treat them poorly.

  3. chili_dog says:

    This is news? My neighbor is a Wal-Mart general manager and makes close to $190K/yr. Of course he works 80 hour weeks, every week.

  4. JustRunTheDamnBallBillick. says:

    @CaffeinatedSquint: I concur completely. I worked for a retail company right out of college, but in an outside sales role with high pay and a decent title. Every time I told people what I did I just got the “oh” response, like I was a failure for working for them. And I wasnt even in the store.

    Those jobs are great for people who dont have degrees though, best way to work your way up without it.

  5. azntg says:

    I thought people were so obsessed with money that they didn’t care to raise families until they were much older. *shrug*

    Thank you hardworking managers out there. Some of you have been quite helpful when necessary!

  6. UpsetPanda says:

    I don’t think I could work 80 hours a week and actually be a good parent, let alone a good spouse/girlfriend of any kind. Though I’d love to be making $190k a year working normal 40 hours. :)

  7. Martha_Jones says:

    Complete lack of respect from customers.
    Stress. Stress. Stress.
    Long, unusual and sometimes changing hours.
    Unreliable staffs.
    Swollen feet & legs.
    Crummy parking and being forced to parking off-site during holiday shopping.
    Customers who scream at you, threaten you, spit on you, use profanties, jump over the cashwrap counters at you, etc.

  8. MrEvil says:

    There’s too much BS in being a manager in a retail store these days. The company acts like they own you like an 1830’s plantation owner owned slaves. You are at their beck and call 24/7 and if you don’t like it, you can go work somewhere else for all they care. You’re just the warm body that takes up slack for all the hourly employees that get too close to OT.

    I hope this shortage of retail managers continues and gets much worse. It would teach the stores a lesson to not treat even their management like shit.

  9. Sudonum says:

    I got 10 out of 10 on the test yesterday. Can I apply?

  10. greatgoogly says:

    I worked as a store manager for a chain record store in the 1990s. You basically make garbage money and are expected to be on call practically 24/7. Besides that they like to assign you to stores which are more than an hour from your home (this when they have stores within 10 minutes of your home). AT the time I was single and loved music, however I could not see anyone doing that job with a family. The company does just see you ha a worker on the plantation.

  11. 3drage says:

    84k for a retail management job? Perhaps in San Francisco or Bel Aire. If you used a weighted average, my guess is you are looking at the 35k range if that.

  12. morganlh85 says:

    $84 thousand? I find that EXTREMELY hard to believe. In every retail establishment I’ve worked in the managers rarely make more than 40k.

  13. crescentia says:

    I worked as an assistant manager at several different stores and there is no way in hell that I would do it again since I never would want to become a manager and that was the only step up left to take.Being salaries and having to work 70-80 hours a week is crap no matter what the pay.

  14. Brie says:

    $84K is for the managers’ managers, right? The suits in the back/upstairs who work weekdays, 8 to 5, and don’t deal with customers? $40K sounds just about right for the floor managers.

  15. scampy says:


    It depends on the store. In a mall store, yes they make around 40k but if youre a manager at a big store like Wal-Mart, Target, Costco, Best Buy etc… they do make 85k at least where I live in central PA

  16. HawkWolf says:

    anyone who didn’t go to professional school or is working in the IT industry is considered a failure in the united states, it seems. whatever happened to doing what pays the bills? everyone should be respected. guy who flips your burger? he’s flipping YOUR food, so you can pay someone else to make you food quickly so you can drive around in your car eating it. you should respect that!

    same goes with retail, especially with the way people treat employees. sure, customer service sucks, but a lot of the time, the customers are terrible. I’m extra glad that the customers I have to deal with on the phone aren’t particularly bad, and I don’t have to encounter them in person when they are bad.

  17. swalve says:

    @scampy: Indeed. Retail is quite lucrative for the top person in the store. Much less so for everyone else. But it’s a terribly high pressure situation. I did it for a while- I got a base salary and 0.5% of the gross sales.

  18. jamesdenver says:

    And you get moved around with little or short notice. In every retail/restaurant job managers get promoted/demoted and transferred to different stores around town. Or if they’re a good manager they get sent to underperforming stores.

    So if you have a house and family you could suddenly find yourself with a two hour commute across town versus a store close to your home, kids school and life.

    With exception to travel corporate jobs usually find you at one non-changing office.

  19. Dick.Blake says:

    @HawkWolf: Bravo.

    I’m about to wrap-up a seasonal job at Target to pay the bills. There is no way in hell I would work a salaried retail job… I’ve seen how much slack the managers must make up for with their employees.

  20. savdavid says:

    And no wonder. Retail managers get no respect from the corporate office or customers. The head offices send out simplistic memos from their ivory towers to the managers on how to do things. Unless you have worked in the low paid, long hours field of retail management you just don’t know about the seventh level of hell. That is why so many managers lose interest and just don’t give a damn anymore after awhile and quit. I know. I was one of the damned.

  21. Shmonkmonk says:

    Retail management is just like any other job. The quality of your job really depends on the company you work for. There are retail managers out there working 60+ hours a week and getting paid $40K and there are those who work 40-50 hours a week and get paid $80K. Basically, if you run a store well staffed with well trained associates, you can focus on your job and work decent hours. If you run a store short on staff/full of idiots, you work long hours to pick up the slack.
    9-5er feel sorry for us because of our schedule but really, I love it. I have one weekday off to do errands and chores and one day off on the weekend to just have fun. I rarely work 5 days straight. Another upside, I only sit in rush hour 2-3 days a week (since I close 3-2 days a week).
    I’ve worked in an office before and oh my goodness, never again, it’s too monotonous for me. Oh, and I don’t have to deal with annoying cubicle mates. I’m all about instant gratification and if I do my job well, the result is immediate in terms of sales, morale, etc.
    When ppl think about retail jobs, they think about the crappy job they had one summer in high school earning $7 an hour. Retail management can actually be a lot of fun and I really enjoy it.
    And yes, I do have a degree (finance) from a well ranked four year university.

  22. goodkitty says:

    This article is too true from the managers I’ve talked with, and from having one in the family. “You carry the products they want. They set the prices. And the computer systems reorder your merchandise…” is quite right… you get no real control of anything yet you are on the line for everything from shrinkage to yearly store revenue growth. It’s even worse if you actually like your store/job and have to be as impotent as the angry customers you try to service.

    @MrEvil: Except you and I both know they won’t change… the execs will get another yearly bonus, more workers will get axed, and they’ll just shift around some inventory and call it a brand new marketing campaign. Whatever it takes to inch the train-wreck along so corporate can get its collective bonus and cash out.

    It’s frightening to see what our economy has (and is) shrinking into… plantation times again indeed… that may be literally true. And then the customers, being so frustrated with poor service, become monsters themselves, and the cycle continues. Isn’t this how global wars get started… lots of desperate people trying to vent anger somewhere? Oh wait, we’re already doing that.

  23. bookling says:

    The managers at the retail store I work for make decent money — my general manager has a freaking time-share in the Bahamas (and does little to no actual work) — but for the most part, the other managers are so stressed out it’s not worth it. They get the worst hours, they get to deal with the worst customers, and they get yelled at by corporate when sales aren’t good. I wouldn’t want to do it.

  24. rockosolido says:

    @ $84K being unbelievable;

    Costco [Michigan] Manager salaries, ballpark based on what I’ve been told by management;

    Floor level – $50-65K
    Staff Level – $65-75K
    Assistant Warehouse Manager – $75-90K
    Warehouse Manager – $100-130K

    And we’re in a recession, haw haw! It seems most warehouse managers are married to other warehouse managers or corporate executives, bringing in over $300K a year per household. Now if these quotes I’ve been given include any sort of annual bonus, I don’t know.

  25. dabdalla says:


    i have worked in retail for 2.5 years. I had my really bad days and my really good days. Its just like any other job. But i dont think retail is for everyone. But i wouldnt put down the people who are retail managers. Because the ones who actually like their job and do it well, have nothing to be ashamed of.
    Although im currently trying to leave because:

    1. i want more money (there are obvious careers thats will make more money)
    2. i first want to have a baby and then leave to a banking job because of the hours.
    3. And you dont fnd the most intelligent people working for retail companies and thats why i get so upset because i manage people who dont care.

  26. dabdalla says:

    oh and one more thing, i make 45k and manage a 4 million dollar business. But i have been offered 20k more to manage a business about that size, but more hours. So it all depends about hours and where you live

  27. kingdom2000 says:

    If money is the only thing that matters, being a retail manager might be for you. Otherwise, a big ole hell no.

    a) you work at whatever store they want you to work at in the region. So you could be working at stores that are 3 hours or more away from your home. They might pay for your moving costs but its rare because they could move you again in 6 months depending on need.

    b) Since salary, most actually require you to work a minimium number of hours, usually 60 or more. So if your thinking “I can do it in 40”, so could they but they are not allowed to.

    c) The hours are bad. Like you may close a store one day (leave at 11pm) and open (as in go in so other employees can stop, prep, etc) at 5am the next day. Basically the schedule has no stability.

    d) It is thankless. The employees are never happy (with good reason), the customers are pain in the ass (because they are often wrong but refuse to acknowledge it) and you have no real decision making capability but forced to take responsibility regardless.

    e) Because of the irratic hours, high stress, etc most retail managers don’t have much of a home life. Its more like being the military where the family knows the person might not be seen for an extended time until leave (ie vacation). Not exactly condusive for heathly relationships.

    f) Once store manager, the ladder basically comes to an end. The only promotion left is regional manger and VP. Those people are usually the dedicated to the company for life sort that only leaves the post if they get promoted because someone above them died. Then your competing with all the other managers for the job.

    g) Oh and to enjoy this manager goodness, you usually have to have put up with crappy pay for 10 years plus as work way up the corporate ladder.

    To me, high pay is nice but if it requires such long hours and high stress that you can’t enjoy it, there is no point in having it.

  28. mac-phisto says:

    become a retail manager today & reap these exciting benefits!!1!
    -no more lonely weekends or holidays at home! you’ll get to spend every one in the company of your employees (if they show up) & cheery shoppers!
    -your job is a vacation! we’ll give you two weeks, but never let you use it!
    -make lots of $$$! just don’t divide your gross by the number of hours you work, or you’ll realize you’re making minimum wage!
    -experience parenthood! enjoy interacting with young kids that have no work ethic & require constant supervision!
    -all this & much more available today! contact a retail location near you!

    yeah…i’ll pass.

  29. numberoneshaqfan says:

    The problem is, a lot of them don’t know how to promote and hire properly.
    I worked at blockbuster. Worked there for two years, should have been promoted at some point and was the reason I left. Instead, during my run, they hired two 18 year old kids as Assistant Managers that were new to the company that both were incompetent and eventually gone. Then what do they do after I left? Promote a relatives friend, who left a couple of months later.
    Now I’m at a place where, if there was a manager position, I would have had it in a month.

  30. etinterrapax says:

    I’m willing to bet that the reason most people don’t want to go into it isn’t the money, it’s the lack of stability. Who wants a job where you can be moved at a moment’s notice, left uncompensated for the move, have to work evenings, early mornings, weekends, and holidays, and without any regularity? It would be impossible to have a family unless your spouse assumed all of the burden of child care, or had a regular-hours job and could pick up and drop off for day care.

    This probably wasn’t always true. Stores weren’t always open 24 or even 16-18 hours per day and both weekend days. But now that the companies and the customers are on the teat of being open 80-90 hours per week, they’ll never go back to a schedule that’s fair to their employees. Whoever says that this is how wars are started is right. People can only take so many hits for the sake of profits. I believe we are seeing that limit right now.

  31. goller321 says:

    @Shmonkmonk: Running a “well staffed store” in today’s retail industry is near impossible. Costco does it by paying well and offer decent benefits, but how are managers gonna get anyone decent at $8/hr? Between Home Crappo and Circuit City firing competent employees for making too much and lowering the starting pay, to KMart that out right fired every employee at stores they converted to Sears HomeLife and offered them jobs at half their former pay, where is the pool for loyal, hardworking employees?

    I worked as a rep for a company in Home Depot, I made more than their assistant managers while working a quarter as much. Add to that the companies shuffle managers around like playing cards and there’s no wonder there is a shortage…

  32. gingerCE says:

    My sister is a retail store manager–right now for a small store so she only makes around 70K–however she left a major store (big box) because of the crazy long hours. She was paid a lot more, so taking her new job was a pay cut but the hours are a lot more manageable and because the store is small, it’s less stress.

    But I can understand about how difficult it is to start a family–retail has odd hours–many times weekend and nights vs. day time and that makes it that much harder to find good daycare or a babysitter who can work with a retail employed mom.

  33. gingerCE says:

    @goller321: By far, the store I have consistently received the worst customer service in has been Costco. The employees have been terrible. Even at my local Wal-mart I have received much better customer service and I know the employees are paid less.

    The only store I have ever had to complain to management about was Costco and I worked my way up corporate because of their employee’s shoddy and unprofessional behavior.

  34. edogat says:

    @kingdom2000: f) Once store manager, the ladder basically comes to an end. The only promotion left is regional manger and VP. Those people are usually the dedicated to the company for life sort that only leaves the post if they get promoted because someone above them died. Then your competing with all the other managers for the job.

    This certainly depends on the individual company. In my time at a large retail organization I saw plenty of movement at the district manger level and at the regional level as well. Not so much at the national level, but some.

  35. BStu says:

    I’ve known retail managers, including one who couldn’t hack it. The demands are really extreme and managers are basically easy targets for blame. That seemed like their primary function, really. They are held accountable in the most insane manner imaginable. I’m sorry, but there is only so much good management of employees can do to impact sales for these big box stores. The people who enter are, by and large, already set on what they are getting and while staff interaction might cost some sales if bad, will largely not have an impact on that visit at all. If anything, when good, it might impact a future visit. But for a lot of customers, that will be months away for some places.

    Managers should be evaluated on their management skills, not sales. If THEIR bosses can’t figure out how to that, then THEY should be the ones being held accountable. Instead, they just use managers as useful scapegoats when any number of outside factors impacts a store’s performance. Its insane, and pretty obviously not worth it for the long haul for most people.

  36. What The Geek says:

    Retail management is the fourth circle of hell. Make no mistake about that. People go into retail management not for the money, and not for the respect (as another commenter supposed) but because they have worked in the same store for some time now, and they don’t know what else to do with themselves. Some of them are college graduates who just can’t find a job in their chosen field. Some of them just don’t know what else to do with themselves, and fear switching career paths. It’s a horrid job. You deal with pressure from district management who have no idea of what goes on at a store level, and you also deal with pressures from beneath you such as angry customers and employees who aren’t being compensated well enough to really give a damn about the job. It’s not a job people typically choose for themselves, but rather a perpetual purgatory that, for one reason or another, they’ve gotten themselves stuck in.

    The next time you’re in a store and you find yourself about to yell at a manager, please, think of this. Retail managers are often great people in horrible situations. Show some kindness.

  37. bertram says:

    I dread having my boss’s job :(

  38. canyonero66 says:

    @whatthegeek: Nope. That sort of attitude is what perpetuates this mess. If I as a customer am expected to cut the GM at a big box store some slack, his or her bosses will see that as an opening. They are allowed to have Jane HomeDepot treat me like crap because I won’t buck the system and cause her additional heartache because she’s already underpaid and treated like crap. Where’s the release valve in that situation? I am accepting substandard service because I feel bad about taking it out on her? Bull. That’s a calculated disconnect. I should be able to pass my discontent up the food chain to the people who can make a difference, but for some reason Jane has agreed to act as a safety valve, shielding the truly responsible people above her from my ire. Jane has been offered – unfairly – as a sacrifice, since she cannot change the circumstances that have led to my discontent. I am unable to complain to a sufficiently empowered entity because Jane has been put in place to buffer all such complaints. Jane needs a vacation and a new job. I need the CEO’s home address so that I can directly discuss shoddy service with someone that has the clout to address that issue. Responsibility has become scarce, and needs to be replaced with accountability. Good luck putting that in place, though.

  39. Mary says:

    I would have happily started up the management train at Borders.

    But because I travel to visit family frequently (and at the time this was a consideration, visiting my father in the hospital) I only had one thing I really needed from my job, weekends off. Barring that, knowing I would always have two days off in a row would have sufficed if they were Fri/Sat or Sun/Mon. I even said I would work a terrible schedule for a time until we could work something out.

    I was told that wasn’t even remotely possible, that not even the store manager could have that. So while they desperately begged for supervisors and managers, and took only one application for most positions, I was quietly looking for a new job that actually paid a living wage.

    I have very little sympathy for corporations that find themselves short of employees or managers.

  40. parrotuya says:

    84K is attainable as retail store manager in a big retail chain like Dillard’s. The store manager position (and his assistant) is about the only position the store with anything resembling an 8-5 schedule. But the retail store manager has to take orders from corporate and is constantly worrying about sales totals – especially on the weekends. I remember our store manager calling every hour to check on the totals. So much for a worry-free weekend!

    I worked in retail at Dillard’s, Foley’s, World Market, AT&T as well as grocery store retail. I can tell you first-hand that it sucks. You have to work when customers want to shop – nights and weekends – and customers treat you like shit. The pay and benefits are terrible. Entry-level managers don’t make much money, either. They stick around a few years and then move on to a buyer position at corporate or another firm to make more money.

    Worse, in a big chain like Dillard’s, you are expected to dress very well. But most employees cannot afford to buy the clothes they sell.

    Retail sucks and I am glad I am out. Forever.