Overall employment is projected to grow more slowly than average;
the number of self-employed sales worker supervisors is expected
Applicants with retail experience should have the best job
In many retail establishments, managers are promoted from
within the company; a postsecondary degree may speed a sales
worker supervisor’s advancement into management.
Long, irregular hours, including evenings and weekends, are
Nature of the Work
Sales worker supervisors oversee the work of sales and related
workers, such as retail salespersons; cashiers; customer service
representatives; stock clerks and order fillers; sales engineers;
and sales representatives, wholesale and manufacturing. Sales
worker supervisors are responsible for interviewing, hiring,
and training employees, as well as for preparing work schedules
and assigning workers to specific duties. Many of these workers
hold job titles such as sales manager or department
manager. Under the occupational classification system
used in the Handbook, however, workers with the title
manager who mainly supervise nonsupervisory workers
are called supervisors rather than managers,even though many of these workers often perform numerous
managerial functions. (Related occupations discussed elsewhere
in the Handbook are retail salespersons; cashiers;
customer service representatives; stock clerks and order fillers;
sales engineers; and sales representatives, wholesale and
manufacturing.) See the Careers
Database for more information on these careers.
In retail establishments, sales worker supervisors ensure
that customers receive satisfactory service and quality goods.
They also answer customers’ inquiries, deal with complaints,
and sometimes handle purchasing, budgeting, and accounting.
Their responsibilities vary with the size and type of establishment.
As the size of retail stores and the types of goods and services
increase, supervisors tend to specialize in one department
or one aspect of merchandising. (Managers in eating and drinking
places are discussed in the Handbook statement on food service managers.)
Sales worker supervisors in large retail establishments,
often referred to as department managers, provide day-to-day
oversight of individual departments, such as shoes, cosmetics,
or housewares in large department stores; produce and meat
in grocery stores; and sales in automotive dealerships. These
workers establish and implement policies, goals, objectives,
and procedures for their specific departments; coordinate
activities with other department heads; and strive for smooth
operations within their departments. They supervise employees
who price and ticket goods and place them on display; clean
and organize shelves, displays, and inventories in stockrooms;
and inspect merchandise to ensure that nothing is outdated.
Sales worker supervisors also review inventory and sales records,
develop merchandising techniques, and coordinate sales promotions.
In addition, they may greet and assist customers and promote
sales and good public relations.
Sales worker supervisors in nonretail establishments supervise
and coordinate the activities of sales workers who sell industrial
products, automobiles, or services such as advertising or
Internet services. They may prepare budgets, make personnel
decisions, devise sales-incentive programs, assign sales territories,
and approve sales contracts.
In small or independent companies and retail stores, sales
worker supervisors not only directly supervise sales associates,
but also are responsible for the operation of the entire company
or store. Some are self-employed business or store owners.
Most sales worker supervisors have offices. In retail trade,
their offices are within the stores, usually close to the
areas they oversee. Although they spend some time in the office
completing merchandise orders or arranging work schedules,
a large portion of their workday is spent on the sales floor,
supervising employees or selling.
Work hours of supervisors vary greatly among establishments
because work schedules usually depend on customers’ needs.
Supervisors generally work at least 40 hours a week. Long,
irregular hours are common, particularly during sales, holidays,
and busy shopping hours and at times when inventory is taken.
Supervisors are expected to work evenings and weekends but
usually are compensated with a day off during the week. Hours
can change weekly, and managers sometimes must report to work
on short notice, especially when employees are absent. Independent
owners often can set their own schedules, but hours must be
convenient to customers.
Training, Other Qualifications, and Advancement
Sales worker supervisors usually acquire knowledge of management
principles and practices—an essential requirement for a supervisory
or managerial position in retail trade—through work experience.
Many supervisors begin their careers on the sales floor as
salespersons, cashiers, or customer service representatives.
In these positions, they learn merchandising, customer service,
and the basic policies and procedures of the company.
The educational backgrounds of sales worker supervisors vary
widely. Regardless of the education they receive, recommended
courses include accounting, marketing, management, and sales,
as well as psychology, sociology, and communication. Supervisors
also must be computer literate because almost all cash registers,
inventory control systems, and sales quotes and contracts
Supervisors who have postsecondary education often hold associate
or bachelor’s degrees in liberal arts, social sciences, business,
or management. To gain experience, many college students participate
in internship programs that usually are developed jointly
by individual schools and firms.
The type and amount of training available to supervisors
vary from company to company. Many national retail chains
and companies have formal training programs for management
trainees that include both classroom and on-site training.
Training time may be as brief as 1 week but may also last
more than 1 year in organizations that require trainees to
gain experience during all sales seasons.
Ordinarily, classroom training includes topics such as interviewing
and customer service skills, employee and inventory management,
and scheduling. Management trainees may work in one specific
department while training on the job, or they may rotate through
several departments to gain a well-rounded knowledge of the
company’s operation. Training programs for retail franchises
are generally extensive, covering all functions of the company’s
operation, including budgeting, marketing, management, finance,
purchasing, product preparation, human resource management,
and compensation. College graduates usually can enter management
training programs directly.
Sales worker supervisors must get along with all types of
people. They need initiative, self-discipline, good judgment,
and decisiveness. Patience and a conciliatory temperament
are necessary when dealing with demanding customers. Sales
worker supervisors also must be able to motivate, organize,
and direct the work of subordinates and communicate clearly
and persuasively with customers and other supervisors.
Individuals who display leadership and team-building skills,
self-confidence, motivation, and decisiveness become candidates
for promotion to assistant manager or manager. A postsecondary
degree may speed a sales worker supervisor’s advancement into
management because employers view it as a sign of motivation
and maturity—qualities deemed important for promotion to more
responsible positions. In many retail establishments, managers
are promoted from within the company. In small retail establishments,
where the number of positions is limited, advancement to a
higher management position may come slowly. Large establishments
often have extensive career ladder programs and may offer
supervisors the opportunity to transfer to another store in
the chain or to the central office if an opening occurs. Although
promotions may occur more quickly in large establishments,
some managers may need to relocate every several years in
order to advance. Supervisors also can become advertising,
marketing, promotions, public relations, and sales managers
(workers who coordinate marketing plans, monitor sales, and
propose advertisements and promotions) or purchasing managers,
buyers, and purchasing agents (workers who purchase goods
and supplies for their organization or for resale). (These
occupations are covered elsewhere in the Handbook.)
Some supervisors who have worked in their industry for a
long time open their own stores or sales firms. However, retail
trade and sales occupations are highly competitive, and although
many independent owners succeed, some fail to cover expenses
and eventually go out of business. To prosper, owners usually
need good business sense and strong customer service and public
Sales worker supervisors held about 2.2 million jobs in 2004.
Approximately 36 percent were self-employed, most of whom
were store owners. About 43 percent were wage and salary sales
worker supervisors employed in the retail sector; some of
the largest employers were grocery stores, department stores,
motor vehicle and parts dealers, and clothing and clothing
accessory stores. The remaining sales worker supervisors worked
in nonretail establishments.
Candidates who have retail experience—as a retail salesperson,
cashier, or customer service representative, for example—will
have the best opportunities for jobs as sales worker supervisors.
As in other fields, competition is expected for supervisory
jobs, particularly those with the most attractive earnings
and working conditions.
Employment of sales worker supervisors is expected to grow
more slowly than average for all occupations through the year
2014. Growth in the occupation will be restrained somewhat
as retail companies hire more sales staff and increase the
responsibilities of sales worker supervisors. Many job openings
will occur as experienced supervisors move into higher levels
of management, transfer to other occupations, or leave the
labor force. However, as with other supervisory and managerial
occupations, job turnover is relatively low.
The Internet and electronic commerce are creating new opportunities
to reach and communicate with potential customers. Some firms
are hiring Internet sales managers, who are in charge of maintaining
an Internet site and answering inquiries relating to the product,
to prices, and to the terms of delivery—a trend that will
increase demand for these supervisors. Overall, Internet sales
and electronic commerce may reduce the number of additional
sales workers needed, thus reducing the number of additional
supervisors required. However, the impact of electronic commerce
on employment of sales worker supervisors should be minimal.
Projected employment growth of sales worker supervisors will
mirror, in part, the patterns of employment growth in the
industries in which they work. For example, faster-than-average
employment growth is expected in many of the rapidly growing
service-providing industries. In contrast, the number of self-employed
sales worker supervisors is expected to decline as independent
retailers face increasing competition from national chains.
Unlike mid-level and top-level managers, retail store managers
generally will not be affected by the restructuring and consolidation
taking place at the corporate headquarters of many retail
Salaries of sales worker supervisors vary substantially,
depending on the level of responsibility the individual has;
the person’s length of service; and the type, size, and location
of the firm.
In May 2004, median annual earnings of salaried supervisors
of retail sales workers, including commissions, were $32,720.
The middle 50 percent earned between $25,120 and $43,110 a
year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $20,110, and
the highest 10 percent earned more than $58,400 a year. Median
annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers
of salaried supervisors of retail sales workers in May 2004
were as follows:
Building material and supplies dealers
Other general merchandise stores
In May 2004, median annual earnings of salaried supervisors
of nonretail sales workers, including commissions, were $59,300.
The middle 50 percent earned between $43,350 and $87,580 a
year. The lowest 10 percent earned less than $30,830, and
the highest 10 percent earned more than $127,870 a year. Median
annual earnings in the industries employing the largest numbers
of salaried supervisors of nonretail sales workers in May
2004 were as follows:
Wholesale electronic markets and agents
Professional and commercial equipment
and supplies merchant wholesalers
Machinery, equipment, and supplies merchant
Grocery and related product wholesalers
Compensation systems vary by type of establishment and by
merchandise sold. Many supervisors receive a commission or
a combination of salary and commission. Under a commission
system, supervisors receive a percentage of department or
store sales. Thus, supervisors have the opportunity to increase
their earnings considerably, but their earnings depend on
their ability to sell their product and the condition of the
economy. Those who sell large amounts of merchandise or exceed
sales goals often receive bonuses or other awards.
Sales worker supervisors serve customers, supervise workers,
and direct and coordinate the operations of an establishment.
Others with similar responsibilities include financial managers,
food service managers, lodging managers, and medical and health
Sources of Additional Information
Information on employment opportunities for sales worker
supervisors may be obtained from the employment offices of
various retail establishments or from State employment service
General information on management careers in retail establishments
is available from:
National Retail Federation, 325 7th St. NW., Suite 1100,
Washington, DC 20004.
Information on management careers in grocery stores and on
schools offering related programs is available from:
International Food Service Distributors Association, 201
Park Washington Ct., Falls Church, VA 22046-4521. Internet:
Information about management careers and training programs
in the motor vehicle dealers industry is available from:
National Automobile Dealers Association, Public Relations
Dept., 8400 Westpark Dr., McLean, VA 22102-3591. Internet:
Information about management careers in convenience stores
is available from:
National Association of Convenience Stores, 1600 Duke
St., Alexandria, VA 22314-3436.
Source: Bureau of Labor
Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational
Outlook Handbook, 2006-07 Edition