Retail management programs prepare people to work in retail. Students learn how to make sales, manage customer service, and keep records. They also learn to direct staff and operations on a sales floor.
Every successful retail store has a manager or team of managers, depending on the size of the operation. And as a retail manager you have to make many important decisions. What merchandise should you stock? What prices should you charge? Where, when, and how should you advertise? What staff do you hire? How do you decorate the premises? What kind of lighting encourages sales? How do you keep the floors clean?
If the "store" is on the World Wide Web, some of the questions you face are different. Instead of lighting, you need to think about web page layout. Instead of clean floors, you need to be concerned with reliable technology. The problems can be very challenging in both settings.
You may also find a job in a specialized branch of retail, such as automobile dealerships or the grocery industry.
With a high school education, you can enter the retail business as a salesperson behind a counter. But you may improve your chances if you get some college course work in retail-related business subjects. Certification programs are available at some vocational and technical schools. These may require only a few months of study. Classes in sales technique are an important part of such programs.
The National Automobile Dealers Association offers classes in dealership management. These combine classroom instruction and on-the-job training.
About 25 two-year colleges offer an associate's degree program in this field. This normally requires two years of full-time study beyond high school.
A handful of colleges offer a four-year program in retail management. This leads to a bachelor's degree and tends to emphasize management rather than sales. With this degree you may be hired as a management trainee by a large retail operation. Your employer may start you as a buyer or as the supervisor of a department within the store. That way you can learn about the merchandise, the suppliers, and the customers.