Head of Departments

Head of Departments

Large retail stores separate merchandise by category to help customers find what they're looking for quickly and easily. Retail stores place managers in charge of departments to maintain the merchandise and supervise staff. Generally speaking, retail department managers enter the position with some retail management experience and department product knowledge. The store's general manager can determine how well a department manger runs a department by reviewing the profit and loss statement.

Merchandising and Maintenance

Retail department managers organize and maintain store merchandise according to the merchandising layout plan, also known as a planogram. District and regional managers judge the department, the store and its managers based on how closely a retail department follows the corporate planogram. Department managers have some flexibility when it comes to merchandising new items or items sent to the store for quick sale. In such cases, merchandise managers create eye-catching displays to sell the products.

Inventory Control

Retail stores receive merchandise from the company warehouse or directly from vendors. Some retail department managers are responsible for checking-in merchandise and logging invoices per store operating procedures. Retail department managers either conduct ongoing inventory, known as cycle counting, or conduct an annual inventory. Department managers are also responsible for preventing merchandise theft by keeping shelves neat and merchandise at correct price tags.


Signs help customers find products and department managers make sure that signs are placed prominently throughout their departments. When items go on sale, retail department managers put up sale signs to alert customers which items they can purchase for reduced prices. Department managers sometimes delegate the task of putting up sale signs to associates and perform a department walk-through to confirm that the signs are in place before sales begin. Department managers also monitor signage during sales, taking down signs as merchandise sells out and moving displaced sales signs back to their proper place.

Customer Service

The bulk of customer service responsibilities fall on retail department managers because their level of involvement in store operations makes them the most knowledgeable person about the department. Sales associates rely on department managers to tell customers when sold out merchandise will be restocked. Some retail department managers handle customer complaints and are authorized to offer remedies on behalf of the store.


Department managers train staff to stock merchandise, handle discards, engage customers and to take special orders. Some retail stores hire a dedicated staff to work in departments, such as hard lines and soft lines, and other stores rotate employees based on availability. A dedicated staff however, allows a department manager to delegate more responsibilities, thus alleviating some of the stress associated with the high-pressure position.

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