What Does a Retail Category Manager Do?
Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More
A retail category manager is an in-store expert in the visual merchandising, pricing, management, and sales of a specified group of products. This expertise is key to driving pricing, product display, marketing, and promotions of certain products to make them highly visible, accessible, and appealing to customers.
Successful retail category managers contribute to the profitability of a company by increasing the volume of products that are sold and by improving the speed of inventory turnover in the category. They often assist in or take charge of ordering, pricing, and organizing products. They might be responsible for several categories of products, or they might specialize in a few items within a category.
Retail Category Manager Duties & Responsibilities
A retail category manager's main duties and responsibilities include:
- Vendor management
- Product selection
- Product mix
- Product pricing
- Product display
- Inventory control
Retail category managers are often responsible for negotiating pricing, delivery, and payment terms, all of which can affect the retail profit margin of the products and the individual retail store. They're responsible for setting competitive price points and adjusting prices to increase sales and to clear out stagnant items from inventory.
Balancing projected forecasts and actual sales, retail category managers create trend forecasts and implement sales plans. Financial analysis is also part of these responsibilities.
Retail Category Manager Salary
A retail category manager's salary can vary considerably based on job location and experience in the field.
- Median Annual Salary: $82,883 ($39.85/hour)
- Top 10% Annual Salary: $116,635 ($56.07/hour)
- Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $53,949 ($25.94/hour)
Source: PayScale, 2019
Retail category managers are members of the management team, so their salaries are often supplemented by performance bonuses, profit sharing, and sometimes sales commissions. Benefits packages generally include health insurance and generous discounts on store merchandise.
Education, Training & Certification
Those looking for careers as retail category managers should ideally have college degrees and related experience.
- Education: Although it's possible for a category manager to rise through the ranks of a retail organization, a bachelor’s degree in business, retailing, management, sales, or marketing is frequently required. Completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree or even just taking some postgraduate courses can give you an advantage over other candidates, especially if your field of study is in merchandising or retail management.
- Certification: Obtaining certification through the Category Management Association (CMA) can also give you a leg up during the hiring process.
- Experience: Retail category managers aren't always required to have prior management experience, but having a strong background in merchandising and vendor relationships will be viewed favorably. Additional experience with product purchasing, financial analysis, and inventory control is also preferable. Specific expertise with sales and marketing products within the merchandise category is also considered to be valuable experience. You should also have a working knowledge of the products, consumer needs, buying practices, sales goals, and the retail environment related to her merchandise category.
Retail Category Manager Skills & Competencies
Certain qualities and skills will help you succeed as a retail category manager:
- Management skills: A successful retail category manager should be experienced in both hard and soft management skills, analytical and retail management skills, as well as people relationship skills.
- Analytical skills: Retail category managers must be analytical and practical to be able to manage the numbers part of their job effectively.
- Interpersonal skills: A successful retail category manager also needs to be intuitive and personable to manage relationships
- Problem-solving skills: You must be able to multi-task and be an effective problem solver because you'll be involved in multiple stages of the retail process.
- Negotiating skills: You should have good judgment and wisdom in negotiations and projections. Good intuition will be just as valuable as good analysis in this role.
- Attention to detail: Exceptional organizational skills and attention to detail are essential.
- Communication skills: Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, are important when dealing with both vendors and coworkers.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the retail sales sector in general is expected to be about 2% through 2026. This is slower than the average for all occupations and is attributed to an increase in online sales and a corresponding decrease in brick-and-mortar retail stores.
Although a significant portion of a retail category manager's work takes place behind the scenes, often in an office, you'll spend some time on the floor as well. Retail stores tend to be clean, attractive, and well-maintained with an eye toward pleasing and enticing customers.
This occupation conforms to regular business hours, but it can require overtime in some situations.
How to Get the Job
Comparing Similar Jobs
Some similar jobs and their median annual pay include:
Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018