Retail Management Degree

Created by Henry Steele

By Henry Steele - November 3, 2017
Reading Time: 5 minutes
Reading Time: 5 minutes

As a retail manager, your primary role is to run a retail store successfully. Good retail managers are in regular contact with staff and customers, and are responsible for making sure the staff is providing good customer service. It also is your job to ensure that the store is performing well financially. Retail managers typically work in one of the following types of stores:

Featured Programs:
Sponsored School(s)
  • Independent retailers: Own and run a single shop and can determine their policies completely on their own. It is common for a retail manager of a single store to have family members help in the business and have the business be operated by various parts of the family. This type of retail store has a great deal of flexibility in how it is run and how products are sold.
  • Chain stores: When many different outlets of the same store are under the ownership of one company, this is a chain store. Chain stores offer mostly the same merchandise at similar prices. The advantage for the retail manager is that much of the business is automated and requires simple oversight. Customers also enter the store having a good idea of what to expect, which increases the chances that customers will come in.
  • Discount: Sells a wide variety of products that are either private label or generic below retail prices. This is becoming one of the most popular types of retail stores.
  • Franchises: These are stores that are operated under a brand name and under an agreement between the franchise company and the franchisee. The franchisor provides the franchise with a variety of support. The franchisor will exercise a heavy amount of control over the operations that are needed to ensure that you are adhering to its guidelines as a brand. But as a franchisee, you have most of the control over the day to day operations of the business.

What Is Retail Management?

Retail management is a subspecialty of management that deals with the oversight of distribution and selling of consumer products in specific places, such as chain stores, malls, shops and online companies. Retail management professionals are responsible for daily operations in a department or retail operation. They plan the ways in which merchandise is sold and promoted, organize workers and set work schedules and manage inventory in a way that allows for the best profits to be made.

Some of the typical duties of retail managers also include:

  • Resolve complaints from customers regarding service and sales
  • Prepare sales budgets and approve retail outlet expenditures
  • Monitor the preferences of customers to determine the best focus of sales efforts
  • Determine the most effective discount rates or pricing plans
  • Plan and coordinate retail staff training programs


There will be a variety of management positions available in the coming years, with 9% growth in all management positions expected through 2026. The Bureau of Labor Statistics or BLS reports that sales managers and related retail sales managers will see 7% job growth in the same time period, which is about as fast as average.

A good sales team is going to continue to remain very important for maximum profitability in the coming years. As the economy is continuing to grow, companies will continue to generate new sales and will need to have effective retail management to continue the growth trend.

A strong growth area in the next decade will be in online retail sales. There will be more sales completed online with no actual brick and mortar store, Still there will be demand for good retail managers to maintain oversight of the sales and operations process to maintain maximum profitability.

Career Paths

BLS states that there are a total of 385,500 retail and sales managers in 2016. The largest numbers of these managers are working in the following areas:

  • Wholesale trade: 20%
  • Retail trade: 18%
  • Manufacturing: 12%
  • Professional and technical services: 10%
  • Finance and insurance: 9%


The median salary for all sales managers in 2016 was $117,000, but in the retail trade area, the median salary was $85,700. The top 10% of all sales managers earn in excess of $200,000 per year.

For retail managers who want to earn the highest salaries, reports that these are the best cities to consider at this time:

  • San Francisco: This city has the highest median salary for retail managers at $91,900, but the cost of living here is one of the highest in the country.
  • Seattle: The median salary for retail managers is $91,600, and there are also many opportunities for sales managers and operations managers.
  • Minneapolis: The median salary in this Midwest city is $77,200, and the cost of living is well below average, so a retail manager here can make their dollar go further.
  • New York: The median retail manager salary in this city is $73,200, but the cost of living here is very high. So you will have a more difficult time making ends meet.
  • Chicago: The median salary for this field is $72,700, and the cost of living is about average compared to the other cities on this list.


If you are studying retail management, you may want to consider working for one of these top retail companies, according to Fortune magazine:

  • Wegman’s Food Markets
  • Nugget Market
  • Build a Bear Workshop
  • Publix Super Markets
  • Quik Trip
  • CarMax
  • Patagonia
  • Sheetz
  • REI
  • Room and Board

Bachelor’s Degree

A good way to start a career in retail management is to earn your bachelor’s degree in business with a focus on retail management. This basic business degree is versatile and will give you the skills and knowledge to qualify for entry level positions in retail management. With enough experience and perhaps an advanced degree, you may be able to eventually move into district management.

Master’s Degree

For retail professionals who want to enhance their skills and possibly move into higher level management and district management, consider getting an MBA in retail management. This type of degree will feature courses including retail management fundamentals, retail operations and purchasing, food service management and retail sales promotion.

Online Degrees

For busy professionals who want to earn their degree with minimal hassle, there are a good number of online degrees in business with a concentration in retail management today. For example, Arizona State University offers this dynamic degree option with all courses offered online. Some of the topics covered in this program includes leading retail organizations, the fundamentals of services marketing, quality management and measurement.

Admission Requirements

Common requirements for a master’s degree in business with a focus on retail management include:

  • GRE or GMAT scores
  • 3.0 GPA in undergraduate work
  • Business background with at least three years of related experience
  • Updated resume
  • Writing samples
  • Statement of purpose


Common courses in a bachelor’s program in retail management include:

  • Financial Accounting
  • Consumer Behavior
  • Business Statistics
  • Retail Management
  • Merchandising, Planning and Buying
  • Marketing Research
  • Supply Chain Management
  • Accounting for Managers

Financial Assistance

There are a number of scholarships and grants you can earn if you want a degree in retail management. This is very important especially for people who are working, as paying for college can be quite expensive:

  • FIDM National Scholarship Competition
  • Nordstrom Retail Management Internship
  • Neiman Marcus Group Internship Program
  • Sears Retail Management Internship
  • Evalee C. Schwarz Charitable Trust for Education Scholarship
  • Nellie Martin Carman Scholarship Fund
  • Geoffrey Beene National Scholarship
  • Ray Greenly Scholarship
  • Helen Brett Scholarship


The National Retail Federation or NRF offers several certifications that can be useful to professionals who want a career in retail. First, the Retail Industry Fundamentals credential is useful for entry level retail associates that teaches the basics of retail, how to retain customers, keeping jobs in retail, and effective salesmanship.

The next certification is Customer Service and Sales, which helps more experienced workers to learn needed skills that are relevant to sales work in retail. Topics that are included are store operations, inventory control, merchandising, and meeting customer needs.

The Advanced Customer Service and Sales Credential is designed for experienced sales associates who may be studying retail management as a career.


Business professionals who strive for a dynamic career in retail management could benefit by joining various professional associations and organizations. This is a good chance for you to enhance your skills, network and find out about various opportunities in the retail field:

  • National Retail Federation
  • Retail Industry Leaders Association
  • Agricultural Retailers Association
  • Council of State Retail Associations
  • Professional Retail Store Maintenance Association

Earning a business degree in retail management will provide you with ample professional opportunities in the growing retail management sector.


Henry Steele
Managing Editor
Henry is Managing Editor of He is a seasoned business professional who regularly consults with local business's throughout Southern California. Henry pursued his undergrad in Business and Economics at the University of San Diego and gained valuable life changing experience through a unique internship upon graduation.

"It doesn't matter how many times you have failed, you only have to be right once." - Mark Cuban