Department manager

When you first started your career in retail, the manager was often seen as the big cheese of the store in your eyes. They were important, in charge, and telling you what to do throughout your shift.

But now you want to take the reins of management and help train the next generation of retail newbie’s. So what can you expect from a department manager job?


So, what will I actually be doing?

When you’re working for a large retail store, sometimes management positions have to be spread out throughout departments. Just like a regular retail management role, your role involves being responsible for your own department, keeping it ticking over and running smoothly.

Your daily duties may vary depending on what your store sells but you can expect some or all of the following:

  • Managing staff
  • Merchandising 
  • Hitting targets and implementing strategies to improve sales
  • Stock control 
  • Hitting sales targets
  • Account analysis
  • Forecasting future sales
  • Taking care of customer service including handling queries and complaints
  • Recruiting and training new staff

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The finer details...

Just like other retail jobs, expect to be working in shift patterns, both during the week and on weekends. Depending on the hours that the store opens, be prepared to work the occasional night shift too.

Great for people that are after a flexible work environment, you’ll be working between 35 and 40 hours per week, which if you’ve worked in retail full-time before, you’re probably already used to.

Although you’re likely to have an office, don’t get used to hiding yourself away in there with your feet up, a lot of your time will still be spent on the shop floor, so don’t throw away your comfortable shoes just yet.

Being a department manager, you aren’t completely the big cheese yet, so you’ll report to the store manager, as well as liaising with other roles including stock management, buyers and merchandisers to discuss future strategies.

Money, money, money

It’s the question you’ve been desperate to ask…what’s the pay like?

As a department manager you can expect to earn between £17,000 and £25,000 a year.

Work your way up to store manager and expect to earn around £40,000 or maybe even more.

Of course, this can vary depending on your store and location. But you can earn some extra cash with bonuses and meeting your sales targets.

See what people are earning in this job

The good points...

A great job for career progression, most companies now offer on-going training throughout your career, plus you’ll always be improving your management skills on the job. This will make it easier for you to enter more senior management roles in the future.

...and the bad

With great power comes great responsibility, and it’ now your job to deal with customer complaints and to discipline slacking staff. Not the most fun part of the job, but someone has got to do it.

Is there study involved?

The one thing you need to know about retail is that employers tend to just want staff that are passionate about the job and are committed to retail; qualifications are just a happy bonus. So the most important thing you’ll need to become department manager is work experience in the retail sector, particularly in other management roles.

When it comes to qualifications, basic education (GCSE, grades A-C) can be useful, especially if you’ve got qualifications in maths and IT.

Some companies do offer trainee management courses or apprenticeships, although you may need Level 3 qualifications to join these (A Levels or equivalent).

If you like to study for extra qualifications, then it's worth getting a foundation degree, BTEC HNC or a degree in retail management, business or marketing to add more skills to your CV.

OK, I'm interested... But is it really the job for me?

As well as a passion for the job, there are some handy skills that might make being a department manager job more enjoyable for you. These include:

  • Ability to work in a team
  • A talent for motivating others
  • Good communicator 
  • Excellent customer service skills
  • Ability to remain calm under pressure
  • Being able to adapt to challenging situations
  • Confident
  • A sense of responsibility
  • Ability to make decisions
  • Ability to analyse sales figures
  • Understanding of retail law, security as well as health and safety


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