What It Takes to Be an Awesome Assistant Store Manager

Awesome Assistant Store Manager

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If you’re looking for the top skills to be a good shop assistant or assistant store manager, you’ve come to the right post. One of the biggest stories I've not heard talked about is that retail didn't lose so many associates or managers as shift leads and assistant managers.

Coming out of the pandemic, many retailers were able to hold on to their managers. But one of the silent casualties was the exit of shift leads and Assistant Managers. Add to that so many retailers are still trying to do more with less - here's a clue: you can't - and you often encounter a manager who just puts out fires.

Do you know what it takes to be an awesome assistant store manager? Do they?

So many retailers would like to promote shift leads to assistant managers and on to become store managers if they prove they can take on additional responsibilities. But when your bench is hollowed out from the great resignation, what do you do? Rebuild.

A good shop assistant is a bridge between the manager, frequently unavailable on the sales floor, and the employees. When trained and rewarded for their communication skills, shop assistants are worth their weight in gold. 

Maybe that’s why LinkedIn says the salary of an assistant store manager ranges between $31k to as much as $65K. Are you surprised to hear that retail careers pay? Where much is rewarded, much is expected.

Here are seven basic skills for an Assistant Store Manager

1. Attention to detail. Your ability to get the facts right is key to supporting management. This can go from remembering a colleague’s birthday or a loyal customer’s face to including special orders and maintenance issues. You must be qualified to filter your boss's needs and bring important details to their attention while also handling the smaller things that often fill their plates.

2. Ability to make decisions. A great shop assistant has good problem-solving skills, so they can think through choices and deliver them to the manager. If there are customer complaints or concerns, a good shop assistant will offer two choices to the manager instead of asking, “What do you want me to do?” You support management, not just relay issue after issue to them, expecting them to fix it all. Understand what responsibilities you have been given authority over and carry them out. On the other hand, help the manager select the best alternative on decisions you don’t have authority over.

3. Ability to suspend your ego. Understand that the term assistant means you are subordinate. There are bound to be times when the boss wants you to do something you would rather not do. Sorry, that’s the position. I’ve always told my assistants, “Your job is to make me look good.” When you do that and support the manager or owner, you show you are a team player eligible for additional responsibilities and the opportunity to run your own store one day.

4. Ability to connect with the customer. The best shop assistants connect with customers because they can read them well. An assistant manager who can read body posture and tone of voice and adjust accordingly will be invaluable. As the assistant, you should also be able to model the best sales process not just to help shoppers but to convert them into customers of your merchandise. In some ways, the assistant manager should be the best salesperson on the sales floor.

5. Ability to be a second set of eyes...and ears. A store manager needs someone to examine some situations - like an employee performance issue, a customer complaint, or an inventory problem - but not in a tattletale way. You are on the sales floor but more than just a sales associate. Your retail shop assistant skills mean you can take the information you see and hear, look for trends that diminish the customer experience, and then look at ways to fix them – either by yourself or with your manager.

6. Ability to sell. Many retail assistants were promoted because they proved they were good retail sales associates. As an assistant manager, you will still want to connect with your customers and model exceptional customer service. Because of your interpersonal skills and experience, you must be able to assist customers and make the sale. 

7. Be a running buddy. When I was running track in high school, we found it invaluable to have a running buddy to cheer us on, run alongside us, and keep pushing us to do our best. Your main goal as a shop assistant is to be a running buddy with the manager, someone they can make a plan with, someone who encourages them, and someone they can trust to support them at all times.

As a team, you and your store manager should be able to achieve and exceed monthly sales targets, manage inventory and labor, keep up with the latest merchandising trends, and do it all with a smile while working in a brick-and-mortar retail store.

What should you avoid as an assistant manager? Overstepping your role, you are there to help the manager, not be the manager.

Because you probably have your eyes on becoming a store manager, check out this post...

7 Essential Skills Every Retail Manager Needs To Succeed

In Sum

A good retail assistant manager can be under a lot of pressure to increase sales because they tend to be closer to the crew than the store owner or manager. However, the best way to grow sales is as a team.

The retail assistant manager needs to be a team leader to get the most out of other associates, particularly when the manager is off but must also be a team player by supporting the manager and not challenging every decision they make.

Learn how to succeed at these responsibilities, and you’ll be promoted from a good assistant to a great manager.