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Retail Operations Management 101: The Ultimate Guide

Danielle Collard
16 Dec 2022

Taking the step from a store manager to the retail operations manager of a business is a huge step for anyone. Knowing what to expect won't necessarily make the job any easier. Still, there are many similarities between the two roles and some differences you can prepare for with a little research.

As retail has changed, entering retail operations management is no longer limited to travelling between a chain of brick-and-mortar stores. Store operations are now balanced between shops, websites, and often social media sales channels. So how can they be sure to stay on top of things? Read on to find out.

How is a retail operations manager different from a store manager?

A store manager is generally responsible for the day-to-day running of a shop, with most time spent on that site or running errands on behalf of that shop (such as supply runs). As part of the management team, a store manager is responsible for the success of that store, but if the shop is part of a chain, the store manager's responsibility is limited to a single store.

A store manager can manage their independent shop with a single branch. A retail operations manager will always be working for a chain of shops, overseeing a group of store managers, and working with each one to ensure the smooth, successful running of all shops.

What are the responsibilities of retail operations management?

Operations manager is a high responsibility, difficult position in the retail business. They'll be responsible for liaising with store managers to ensure they have everything they need, sometimes travelling large distances to see each store.

They'll also be responsible for standardizing the practices of each store to create a customer experience that is consistent with the brand and will make big decisions that influence the marketing of each store. Therefore, retail operations managers must create a complex strategy for multi-store businesses to achieve better sales performance across retail chains.

If this sounds daunting, some differences might simplify the role as well. For instance, a retail operations manager will have far less contact with customers, as the role is a little less on the front lines of retail. Although, when they do speak with customers, it will often be because of a serious incident. They likely spend a little more time on data management, implementing new procedures, or conducting employee reviews.

What's the salary of a retail operations manager?

Operations managers can also expect a good wage for their work. The average retail operations manager in the United Kingdom can expect to make over £40,000, with well-paid managers for larger chains approaching £65,000[1].

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Retail operations: staff management

The relationships with retail employees, store management, and business associates will be crucial to success in operations management. A key part of this role is implementing initiatives to try and direct improvements to the business. But it's impossible to observe the team's efforts when overseeing numerous physical store locations within the chain. Operations management requires a strong trust relationship with the teams at each location. However, this can be difficult when one or more stores are underperforming.

Maintaining transparent communication with store managers can help maintain cohesion within the management team. Going over the sales reports for individual stores with managers and setting clear sales goals can make it easier to establish a two-way dialogue. In-person meetings and leaving space for queries can help store managers raise concerns about the performance of the stores and outline reasons for poor performance.

Two-way dialogue with managers is important as it can take time to fully understand how and why stores over or under-perform based on sales reports. Store managers who spend all their time at individual stores will better understand changes happening at each location.

Ensuring you work closely and collaboratively with them can do your job as operations manager easier while boosting morale for the store managers themselves by showing you value them.

How to implement staff management procedures

An operations manager must work closely with staff managers and ensure they, the store, and all sales staff perform as well as possible. A good way of doing this is by implementing policies and procedures to measure performance.

Making these a regular part of life in the business help ensure that every member of your team knows their KPIs and what core responsibility they need to work on to hit these targets. These policies and procedures codify what staff must work on from the ground up. These may be customer satisfaction targets, a store cleaning checklist, or even time spent on the sales floor with customers and away from the counter.

A retail operations manager needs to set their own goals if there isn't a management team setting them for you. However, being clear about what your goals are for the business motivates the goals of everyone on the team. These goals might be a 10% rise in sales or a focus on more specific targets, such as an effective rollout of loyalty programs or boosting e-commerce sales.

Whatever goals you're setting for the business, outlining those goals can give clear rationales for the procedures you follow as a business. This makes it easier for you and the management team to ensure policies and procedures are followed effectively.

Retail operations: inventory management

Inventory management can be far more complex for multi-site retail businesses. Some stores sell products that aren't at other locations, and managers can source replacements for products from supplies or other sites, turning operations management into an improvisational juggling act.

Fortunately, tracking inventory is made much easier using inventory management software which most POS systems come with as standard. Epos Now's multi-site management feature can simultaneously monitor stock levels at multiple sites so you can quickly see when sites are short on products.

Depending on your business's operating capital, you might opt not to move stock between locations unless there are exceptional circumstances but to maintain multiple, direct supply chain management systems.

Having each store go directly to suppliers can delegate responsibility for keeping the store shelves stocked to the store managers themselves, leaving you to manage the operational costs without juggling the inventory needs of different stores.

How to keep your physical locations well-stocked

Where inventory management becomes a little more difficult is when your suppliers have difficulties. Having a good relationship with your suppliers can help ensure you stay well-informed during shortages and can help you mitigate the fallout from running out of stock.

Using your POS system for retail management can make many parts of the job easier, and inventory control is one of them. Epos Now's stock alerts feature sends users an email each morning notifying them about any stock running short. These features, in addition to more sophisticated inventory reports, help managers prioritize profitable lines and anticipate any issues.

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Marketing your brand as an operations manager

Retail operations management brings a lot of marketing responsibilities and the need to focus on branding. When in charge of multiple sites, you provide a key link between the different stores, while others only focus on individual locales.

This means setting out brand values, slogans, uniforms, etc. Many larger businesses in the retail industry standardize store layouts so that any of the company's stores can meet customer expectations and make navigating the store much easier. A retail operations manager plays a key role in in-store marketing, even if other managers are involved in other marketing forms.

Visual merchandising can help to build up more sales in several different ways.

  • Aisle-end displays can catch the eye of the customer and inspire additional purchases that boost daily sales.
  • Window display products sell especially well, as shoppers watch out for the product they see in the window.
  • Signs displaying promotions across the store can encourage people to make extra purchases to save money on your latest offer.

A retail business with multiple locations and online consumers will likely have more repeat customers with better product knowledge. Finding ways to market to old and new customers and create an exciting customer experience is a key part of the retail operations management role.

Creating a standardized customer experience

While you may encounter fewer customers as an operations manager, the customer experience remains crucial in the retail sector, so you'll still be heavily involved in crafting that experience.

The need to create a pleasant journey through the store (the physical one and the online one) to ensure a smooth transaction at checkout and a frictionless post-purchase experience is a huge part of distinguishing yourself in the retail field. You can learn about your company's shortcomings through reviews and cross-site comparisons.

Online reviews through platforms like Google and Trustpilot can simplify the process. While every business gets odd reviews from individuals, you may want to address the issue when a few people tell a similar story about a negative experience with your business. Responding to customers and addressing the problems they outline is a key part of any management role.

Retail operations management presents a unique opportunity in that managers can compare different stores and use good performance in one store to find solutions to problems in another.

For instance, if one site regularly gets positive reviews over how the store looks, while another gets negative reviews, visiting both sites and trying to see things through the customers' eyes could highlight the flaw that leads to negative reviews. Adapting that shop to look more like the other could also lead to better results.

Making the big decisions during expansion

A retail operations manager is also in a position to influence the acquisitions of new brick-and-mortar stores. Choosing when and where to open a new branch is a big decision and one that requires a lot of thought, research, and planning.

Factors worth considering when purchasing a new branch could include:

  • The amount of passing foot traffic that could help the business acquire new customers.
  • The demographics in the local area and how they correlate to your existing customer base.
  • The number of competitors in the near vicinity that the new branch will need to compete with.
  • Rent prices and expected startup costs for the new branch.

Any new branch a business considers opening will need to have optimal answers to the above four. As an operations manager, this might mean a lot of travel to scope out the new branch, and following startup, you might need to spend a lot of time in new stores establishing the policies and procedures that we've discussed in this article.

Manage a multi-store retail operation the easy way: with Epos Now

Staying on top of an omnichannel retail business takes a lot of work, but the best business technology solutions can make it all so much easier. Epos Now users can access real-time sales data from any site, from anywhere in the world!

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  • Manage multiple channels from one place, even when out of the office, with all reports and business data stored securely on the cloud.

If you're interested in Epos Now's retail POS system or hospitality POS, submit your details below, and we'll have a member of our expert team reach out.

If you enjoyed this article, you might also like our other pieces on operations management:

Hotel operations management

Restaurant operations management

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