What Does a Retail Category Manager Do?

Learn About the Salary, Required Skills, & More

A day in the life of a retail category manager: Vendor management, product selection, product pricing, planning

The Balance / Julie Bang

A retail category manager is an in-store expert in the visual merchandising, pricing, management, and sales of a specified group of products. This expertise is key to driving pricing, product display, marketing, and promotions of certain products to make them highly visible, accessible, and appealing to customers.

Successful retail category managers contribute to the profitability of a company by increasing the volume of products that are sold and by improving the speed of inventory turnover in the category. They often assist in or take charge of ordering, pricing, and organizing products. They may be responsible for several categories of products, or they may specialize in a few items within a category.

Retail Category Manager Duties & Responsibilities

A retail category manager's main duties and responsibilities include:

  • Vendor management
  • Product selection
  • Product mix
  • Product pricing
  • Product display
  • Marketing
  • Planning
  • Inventory control

Retail category managers are often responsible for negotiating pricing, delivery, and payment terms, all of which can affect the retail profit margin of the products and the individual retail store. They're responsible for setting competitive price points and adjusting prices to increase sales and to clear out stagnant items from inventory.

Balancing projected forecasts and actual sales, retail category managers create trend forecasts and implement sales plans. Financial analysis is also part of these responsibilities.

Retail Category Manager Salary

A retail category manager's salary can vary based on job location and experience in the field. Retail category managers are members of the management team, so their salaries are often supplemented by performance bonuses, profit sharing, and sometimes sales commissions. Benefits packages generally include health insurance and discounts on store merchandise.

  • Median Annual Salary: $84,236 ($42.12/hour)
  • Top 10% Annual Salary: $116,635 ($56.07/hour)
  • Bottom 10% Annual Salary: $53,949 ($25.94/hour)

Source: PayScale, 2019

Education, Training & Certification

Those looking for careers as retail category managers should ideally have college degrees and related experience.

  • Education: Although it's possible for a category manager to rise through the ranks of a retail organization, a bachelor’s degree in business, retailing, management, sales, or marketing is frequently required. Completing a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree or taking some postgraduate courses can provide an advantage over other candidates, especially if the field of study is in merchandising or retail management.
  • Certification: Obtaining certification through the Category Management Association (CMA) can be an advantage during the hiring process.
  • Experience: Retail category managers aren't always required to have prior management experience, but having a strong background in merchandising and vendor relationships are viewed favorably. Additional experience with product purchasing, financial analysis, and inventory control is preferable. Specific expertise with sales and marketing products within the merchandise category is a valuable experience. A working knowledge of the products, consumer needs, buying practices, sales goals, and the retail environment related to the merchandise category is beneficial.

Retail Category Manager Skills & Competencies

Certain qualities and skills will help you succeed as a retail category manager:

  • Management skills: A successful retail category manager should be experienced in hard and soft management skills, analytical and retail management skills, as well as people relationship skills.
  • Analytical skills: Retail category managers must be analytical and practical to manage the numbers part of their job effectively.
  • Interpersonal skills: A successful retail category manager needs to be intuitive and personable to manage relationships.
  • Problem-solving skills: Retail category managers are multi-taskers and effective problem solvers that are involved in multiple stages of the retail process.
  • Negotiating skills: Retail category managers use good judgment and wisdom in negotiations and projections. Good intuition is as valuable as good analysis in this role.
  • Attention to detail: Exceptional organizational skills and attention to detail are essential.
  • Communication skills: Excellent communication skills, both written and verbal, are important when dealing with vendors and coworkers.

Job Outlook

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, job growth in the retail sales sector, in general, is expected to be about 2% through 2026. This is slower than the average for all occupations and is attributed to an increase in online sales and a corresponding decrease in brick-and-mortar retail stores.

Work Environment

Although a significant portion of a retail category manager's work takes place behind the scenes, often in an office, they spend some time on the floor as well. Retail stores tend to be clean, attractive, and well-maintained with an eye toward pleasing and enticing customers.

Work Schedule

This occupation conforms to regular business hours, but it can require overtime in some situations.

How to Get the Job


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Comparing Similar Jobs

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Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2018