Clare Burgess talks to Alistair Divers, store manager of Ego in Chapelfield, Norwich, about his retail career.

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Factfile: retail manager


It’s possible to start as an assistant and apply for management training after gaining experience as many stores run their own management training schemes.

Many managers have a level three qualification such as a level three diploma, an NVQ level three, an advanced apprenticeship, A-Levels or equivalent.

The Retail National Skills Academy and their Retail Skills Shops offer advice and training in retail. In particular the exclusive Mary Portas masterclasses for owners/ managers of retail outlets covers every stage of creating and running a successful retail business


A level three qualification will take two years to complete

Local training

• Norwich Retail Skills Academy 01603 773888/

A partnership between City College Norwich and retailers from the city, the academy offers advice and training for existing retailers and those wanting to get into retail including the Mary Portas masterclasses and a foundation degree in retailing.

• City College Norwich 01603 773773/

Offer a wide variety of retail courses: full time, work based and apprenticeships.

• Poultec 01362 850983/

Offer NVQs and apprenticeships.

• College of West Anglia 01553 761144/

Offer full time courses, apprenticeships and work based courses. The King’s Lynn Retail Skills Shop is part of the college and offers various courses including the Mary Portas masterclasses.

For further information check:

• National Skills Academy Retail

Salary range

Salaries start at £15,000 and rise to £28,000. Extra bonuses and commissions can be earnt for meeting sales targets.

Belle Jones

Why is it a good profession to get into?

Being a store manager is a very varied profession because you have to deal with every aspect of the store - the most important aspect being customer service.

I am passionate about customer service and you can get a kick out of doing something for your customer. If I have made my customers happy and have given them really good service then I know I have done a good day’s work.

It is also a very rewarding profession because you have the responsibility to make valuable changes and improvements that will benefit the business.

What does the work involve?

Store management is all about multi-tasking so you are dealing with suppliers, doing the admin, cleaning, organising staff rotas and you might have a staff issue to deal with. Creating a good shopping environment for our customers, managing stock levels and keeping everything running smoothly is of paramount importance. But above all you have to serve the needs of the business and ensure that you make a profit. I think this is done through excellent customer service as if people know that your staff will make them feel welcome and valued they will always come back. Ego is a buy and sell fashion boutique - our suppliers bring their designer clothes, we agree a price and sell their items for them so another part of my role is being selective, almost like a buyer. I have to make sure that the items we have in our store are of good quality, will appeal to our customers and will sell on our shop floor. Another important part of a store manager’s role is the training and coaching of their staff. This is especially important within Ego as it is part of the Retail Skills Academy so I am training people to become the very best retailers.

What are the positives/negatives of the job?

Store management is an enjoyable, fun and friendly profession. It is very personable job and I think you get out of it what you put in to it. However the job comes with a lot of responsibility so you never really stop but if you like the responsibility then it’s also the reward. Sometimes people think being a store manager is a much easier job than it actually is and I think that you are almost undervalued as a professional business person because you work in a shop but there is much more to it than that.

Is there much local demand for people trained in this area?

I think there is a demand as these days customer service is a key element in every business so what you learn by working in the retail sector is transferable to almost any job.

What would employers look for in someone applying for a vacancy?

You need to be an all-rounder so you need to be good with people, administration and figures. Ideally you also need to have knowledge of the sector that you are working in and most importantly you need experience and a good understanding of customer service. The great thing about retail is that you can work your way up but these days the job market is very competitive so if you can arm yourself with not only the experience but the knowledge as well that will be what the employers want to see.