The Outdated Concepts of Retail Management

Stop talking! Get away from the till! Why are you late! Introducing ‘The Outdated Concepts of Retail Management’

Insert all the aggressive emojis you can think of above. I’ve had a lot of interesting characters as managers during my years in retail and I’ve always paid attention to how they deal with their staff and their roles.

Up to now I have found that a lot of these approaches to management simply aren’t as beneficial anymore however there are concepts of retail management that has reaped rewards for businesses and individuals..


The Aggressor – the manager that treats the staff like children. A manager that embodies this character tends to shout and talk down to the team. An approach that isn’t as common as it used to be hence the title however it is possible to find benefits and drawbacks to almost everything.

Advantages: whilst this concept of retail management does not yield much motivation and happiness within the team, small tasks are often done on time. This type of manager is apprehensive towards delegation of complicated tasks. They usually do not have the patience to teach.

Disadvantages: the team is the most important thing. It’s vital for the manager to keep the team happy and motivated. The aggressor becomes a repetitive nag very quickly, and from a development perspective staff will struggle to learn and grow in their roles.

Most Effective In: Large high street stores with a high turnover of staff. Staff members are usually younger students with many other priorities preceding work. It’s easier for the manager to take the aggressor approach because the majority of team members do not have an ambition in retail at this stage. Despite this it is still important to learn about your team and not make assumptions. Some may have a genuine desire to progress.

Surely ‘The Aggressor’ is an outdated concept of retail management?

The Soft Touch – the manager that lets a lot of things slide like a bobsleigh in Jamaica (If you haven’t seen ‘Cool Runnings’ leave now). There are usually no boundaries created between staff and management. This encourages staff to take advantage of the situation and get away with mischief.

Advantages: Staff are less likely to complain about work and their manager if they can reap the benefits of lacking strict management.

Disadvantages: Some staff members like to work and end up resenting the staff members that take advantage. This can create a divide within the team.

Most Effective In: Small boutiques. Managers that take this approach could lack confidence and self belief. The manager in this situation would be less overwhelmed in a smaller boutique store. This could allow him or her time and space for self development. ‘Most effective in’, is not the most accurate choice of words when associating The Soft Touch with a business, however when focusing on the manager as a person, it is more relevant.

Was 'The Soft Touch' ever a concept of retail management?
Was ‘The Soft Touch’ ever a concept of retail management?

The Equal – sees their staff as adults. Staff were successful in their interviews for good reason. Staff can learn. They will make mistakes but that’s all part of the process. Instilled is the fact that they’re above their staff in the hierarchy but that does not deter faith or respect for them.

Advantages: this approach creates more leaders and more successful managers. Staff are often given more responsibility. This enables them to invest themselves into the business more (the bigger the investment the harder it is to walk away = increased retention). Tuning your initiative in retail takes time when you’ve worked under an overbearing aggressor. You also don’t receive much guidance working under a nonchalant soft touch. The equal offers the perfect platform for personal development and offers support along the way.

Disadvantage: The Equal allows mistakes to be made and rectified with minimum input. This helps to maximise retention of the lesson learned. Over 70% people learn better through performing the actions themselves rather than watching the action be performed. This does not help with the initial time efficiency. Tasks will usually take longer to complete however they won’t need to be constantly demonstrated. This will ultimately lead to an increase in efficiency of the business in the future.

Most Effective In: Department stores. This is because department store’s staff  turnover is over 30% lower than high street stores. It’s much more worthwhile to commit to developing staff in an environment where more team members are capable of staying beyond their probationary period. Elsewhere you’ll find that with this concept the workload for the department store can easily be spread among a number of capable individuals. As a result this leaves more room to work on further developments across the store.

There's 1 leader, however it takes the whole team to steer the bobsleigh to victory.
 There’s 1 leader, however it takes the whole team to steer the bobsleigh to victory.


We cannot disregard the fact that there will be loafers with no intention of progressing however that simply highlights the importance of regular catch ups and reviews. In high street, luxury retail, boutiques or department stores, you will meet all kinds of people so prejudgment isn’t something I would recommend. All of these concepts can still work in some way however the first two are closer than crusty milk to their expiration date . Stick with the approach that gives the best knock-on effect in the long term. Which one do you think that is?

Which concept of retail management do you think is the most productive? What type of manager are you? What are your thoughts on the outdated concepts of retail management?

I’d love to read your views.

Further Reading

Management Study Guide explain what being a manager in retail involves.

Retail Choice give their take on what being a good manager entails.

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