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The Retail District Manager vs The Retail District ‘Leader’

When you look into the job description for the role a Retail District Manager, or Regional Manager, or whatever title fits the person who runs a territory of stores within a retail organization, it’s no wonder we see so many DM’s hungry for a little inspiration and direction. 

At Graff, we recognize the District Manager position as one of the most important ones in a retail operation.  And don’t take just our word for it!  Check out the comments on our blog that ran on  So, why are most DM’s left to travel between stores with little to no direction and sense of purpose? 

When I Googled it, the job seems to be typically summarized like this: 

“A District Manager oversees a region or cluster of stores within the organization and reports to senior management.  Primarily in charge of the operational practices; including ensuring each location runs well, is in compliance with company standards, is properly executing marketing campaigns and visual merchandising plans, and meets budgets and sales goals.  The District Manager is also responsible for hiring and assessing performance of store managers, creating and maintaining budgets.” 


Sounds uninspired to me!  True, DM’s have to accomplish all of the above.  But, if that’s how most DM’s understand their role, it makes sense that we see a lot of DM’s going through the motions.  Again, it’s no wonder so many are expressing their hunger to learn how to maximize their true purpose out in the field!

It’s due time this role was thought of differently amongst the retail sector.  Early in my retail career, I reported to and worked with mostly ‘average’ DM’s and fortunately, a few great ones.  What separates these people in the work they do?  Sure, there are lots of factors, but the one thing that jumps out at me is leadership; the great ones knew how to be Leader of the people in the field versus a Manager who just managed and coordinated the operations in the field. 

It occurred to me that those who were mediocre in my memory were not bad at their job.  They were just doing what they knew to do based on the job description provided to them.  They had little job-specific training.  The great ones were great because, while their job description did include the same operational responsibilities as the others, it also included, prioritized and emphasized the people performance side of things. 

The place to start is with how retail organizations view this role.  The mentality has to change so those in this oh-so-important and influential role can rise up and really make a difference in performance.  Most retailers don’t even provide training for their District Managers, who were more often than not, strong Store Managers.  They were promoted to DM and now find themselves sinking in a much bigger pool of stores.  If you work for a retailer that educates and empowers their DM’s to be true Retail Leaders, we want to hear from you!  Please share your comments on this blog. 

If you lead or are one of those hungry DM’s I spoke of earlier, we invite you to join in on our next ‘famous’ 3-Day District Manager Workshop in March!  It’s one of the only DM-specific training programs of its kind!

Check out full program details here:

Call Today to Register!  Mention this blog and save $250!    905-842-1275


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