What Does a Grocery Store Manager Do? The Ultimate Guide


I was a grocery store manager for many years, but in my early days of working in grocery stores, I still remember wondering what does a grocery store manager do.

Here’s what I learned from doing that job for over 15 years:

A grocery store manager wears many hats, from hiring & firing, to customer service, and ensuring the merchandising and cleanliness of their store is up to par. Then there is also monitoring the store’s profitability. But most important is the ability to find, screen, hire & mentor employees who help run their store.

But there’s a great deal more to know about not only what a grocery store manager does, but how to do the job well.

So if you’re considering this job for your career, or doing the job but struggling or wanting to improve, we’ll get into all of that here!

Let’s dive in.

What is the role of a store manager?

Ultimately, the role of a store manager, what many would call a general manager (GM), is to be responsible for all aspects of running the store.

Now when I did this job for Whole Foods Market (in several stores in multiple states), they call this role Store Team Leader.

But no matter what you call it or what company you work for, here are the basic principals of running a grocery store:

  • In charge of all hiring, firing, supervising, promotion, and reprimanding
  • Making sure every customer has the best experience possible
  • Responsible for growing the store sales as well as managing profit and loss
  • Helping ensure the company follows all legalities in both HR and financial practices
  • Fostering good morale in the store with your employees
  • Ensuring your store has plenty of products to sell and is well-merchandised

Now, of course, there is a lot of detail that goes into those things (and we’ll get into that below).

But those are the basic core principals. If you own your own store, that will obviously give you more freedom and flexibility in certain areas, but also has it’s own unique headaches too.

In the end, while there is always some politics and bureaucracy involved in working for ANY company, I enjoyed my time as Store Team Leader for Whole Foods Market. It was a great job, a sometimes demanding, frustrating, and tiring job.

But running a successful grocery store is a great job nonetheless.

I dive a little deeper into some of the specifics of how to run a successful grocery store in a recent article. After all, not everyone is cut out to do this job, and many aren’t great at it (but do it anyway).

One of the biggest misconceptions is about whether the boss has to be the best at everything to be successful. Just click that link to read more on my site.

How do you manage a supermarket successfully?

As a grocery store manager, you have to wear a lot of hats. So this is not a job for someone unable or unwilling to just do whatever is necessary at the moment to keep the store going.

As a grocery store manager, while I didn’t perform all of these tasks daily, I did occasionally:

  • Operate a forklift
  • Take injured employees to the hospital
  • Cashier
  • Stock groceries
  • Go to unemployment hearings at state offices
  • Clean up spills
  • Mediate arguments between employees
  • Wash dishes in the kitchen
  • Get berated by angry customers
  • Clean out a clogged trash compactor
  • Deal with protesters in my store (one of whom headbutted me once)

So you have to be prepared for anything. Each day brings new and different needs and challenges, and even the most prepared person can’t predict everything that might happen.

So be flexible, be open-minded, be easy-going as this can be a stressful job and you losing your cool will only make everything worse. You should also be prepared for some long hours, and evenings and weekends. Sure, once you really get a store dialed in with a great team behind you, you can work a somewhat more regular schedule.

But this is NOT a Mon-Fri 9 to 5 world.

How do you become a grocery store manager?

I worked my way up at Whole Foods Market, starting at $4.25 an hour as a stocking clerk.

When I started, I had no degree or prior experience, I just learned as I went. I paid close attention to the people who were successful in their jobs and what they were doing. I emulated, adapted, and grew my knowledge and skills.

Now some companies may require a degree; Whole Foods does not.

But degree or not, there is some definite education and experience you’ll need to run a grocery store. And some companies DO require a degree.

Luckily, I break it all down in a recent article, including the requirements of all the top grocery chains.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Even if they don’t require a degree, some stores may only hire seasoned store managers from outside the company. But I believe working your way up provides you with the best skillset and understanding of the role. After all, you will eventually be managing people in those entry-level roles, so what better way to lead them than to have done that job yourself.

The people I most often saw fail in their leadership roles were people who came in from outside the company who tried to tell everyone what to do without a clear understanding of what those roles were like.

So with your company, find out what the requirements are to become a grocery store manager. Then work your way down the list figuring out what you need to learn. They’ll appreciate your initiative and you’ll have a roadmap of how to get where you want to get.

Most likely you’ll need to start as a department manager or even assistant department manager.

Then after a couple of years as a department manager, start applying for assistant store manager jobs. Eventually, you’ll get that coveted grocery store manager job. If you work for a company like Whole Foods that has hundreds of stores across the US and beyond, it also helps to be flexible.

By that I mean, I was willing to move where my bosses wanted me to go.

I worked in 9 stores (1 store at 2 different times) in 4 states in my 20+ year career with Whole Foods, and I know my flexibility and willingness to sacrifice helping in getting those promotions.

What are the typical duties of a grocery store manager daily?

Bear in mind every day in the life of a grocery store manager can be different. Also, know that each company may have different systems for doing things.

But I’ll describe what my days were like, on average, over my 15 years or so in store management positions for Whole Foods.

Then I’ll breakdown duties in categories below so we can get specific.

Also, know that at Whole Foods at least, store managers are asked to work at least some evening and weekend shifts. But often, while we do sometimes end up staying late, grocery store managers go in early; anywhere from 5-7 am in a lot of cases.

I would start my morning shift, before the store opened, by doing a quick walk through the store checking in and saying hi to the opening crews. Then, I would go to my office and start by checking emails and seeing if there any new priorities to the day I might not have been aware of.

Many companies and Whole Foods was no exception, LOVE emails, and my inbox would be flooded daily, often with ones, I could instantly delete (I know who you are, reply-all people!). But it still takes time each day to go through emails.

Shortly before the store opening, I would do an opening announcement.

That would include how much time we had before the store opened, but also any shout outs if any departments had broken sales records, or if anyone had a recent promotion.

Then I would do a quick walk and make sure we were ready to open:

  • Floors dry and clean
  • Carpets down
  • Case lights on
  • No pallets on the sales floor
  • All public doors unlocked and turned on (if electronic)

Then I would start my store walk, which I’ll detail below.

Grocery Store Manager Merchandising duties

Ultimately, most larger stores will have department managers, and you, as the store manager, may have 1 or more assistant store managers.

However, the buck stops with you.

By that, I mean that you are ultimately responsible for your store, including how it looks. So walk your entire sales floor daily. And have your assistants do that every day you aren’t there.

As a store manager, I didn’t always build displays or stock shelves (but I did if we were shorthanded). But I would do a detailed store walk in the morning right around the opening of the store.

That way, I would see what our customers would see.

I took a shopping cart with me as you’d be amazed at how much trash, dented cans, pallet splinters and other debris you’ll find.

Depending on the size of the store, this could take anywhere from  30 minutes to 2 hours.

But it’s essential! You’ll see:

  • Lots of employees you don’t always get to interact with
  • Endcaps and displays missing sale signs
  • Dust (bring a duster with you)
  • Things your overnight floor crew or stockers moved and didn’t put back in the right place
  • Poor quality fruits and vegetables in the produce department

And that’s just the beginning. Want to run an amazing grocery store? Do a detailed store walk every day.

If you are new to being a grocery store manager, or it’s your aspiration down the road, you may not know all the aspects of good merchandising to look for.

Luckily, I walk you through everything you need to know about great merchandising in a recent article. Whether you want to know how to build a display with a small amount of product or are confused about how many items should go ion a display, I’ve got you covered.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Grocery Store Manager HR duties

Large chains like Whole Foods where I worked have an in-store HR person and a regional HR team as well. So I never made big HR decisions by myself.

BUT, in a store with a couple of hundred employees, some things come up every day that need to be dealt with. While your department managers can document things like lateness or excessive absenteeism, you’ll want to step in on bigger issues.

The kinds of situations I’ve run into in HR include:

  • Employees physically fighting
  • Employee theft or sweethearting
  • One employee verbally abusing another
  • Sexual harassment 

And those are just a few of the issues that crop up regularly.

It’s important to deal with things quickly, consistently (meaning everyone including yourself is held to the same standard), and fairly.

For theft, I always went by the motto that theft is theft and it’s something that’s immediately fireable for whether it’s a $5.00 item or a $50 item. I still recall a conversation with a woman I was firing who stole a bottle of water.  She argued that it was inexpensive and I should give her a pass.

But in that store, with 250 employees, do I really want to be going around making judgment calls all day on how much is too much to steal and how much is not?

No is the answer you’re looking for.

Be firm, fair, and consistent. Have clear policies in procedures in place. Communicate clearly and without a lot of emotion. The employees who ARE following the rules will love you for it.

And those are the ones who are really getting it done for you each and every day.

I also mentioned sweethearting above.

Lots of people are confused about that, and whether it’s truly a crime or not. So I have a recent article where I break it down thoroughly.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Grocery Store Manager Sales and Profit duties

There are so many priorities to juggle.

If you don’t have happy employees, the customer service will suffer. If the customers aren’t happy, they’ll shop elsewhere. BUT, if your store isn’t profitable, it doesn’t matter how happy the employees and customers are.

Eventually, your company will fire you or demote you.

So you can’t forget about profit. It’s not priority #1, but it has to be high on the list. As the store manager, you will hold your department managers accountable for the profitability in their departments.

Depending on how you access your reports and how often they get updated, have a system for checking them regularly.

Here are some general recommendations of what to look for and how often:

Type of Info How often to review
Store and Department Sales Daily
Department labor costs Weekly
Shrink (spoilage) Weekly
Profit/Margin  Weekly snapshot / Monthly detailed review

Lots of people are confused about margins, markups, and how much profit a store, and the departments in it should make. Luckily, I break it all down simply and easily in a recent article.

I even show you the calculations to covert margin to markup and vice versa. Just click that link to read it on my site.

Grocery Store Manager Team Leadership role

You can’t be everywhere in your store.

And, you also can’t do every job. You aren’t the best at everything. So you need a solid team behind you. So your primary job, among all the other hats you wear, is to hire the best people for every job.

And hire for attitude, not skill.

Sure you don’t want to hire someone who’s never cut meat to be the head butcher. But you can’t take someone with a bad attitude and train them to be happy.

You can train anyone to be skilled at something.

Give them a clear job description and make sure they are clear on the goals for their job. Check-in often and give feedback. But once they know their job, know your goals for them, and are hitting them, get out of their way and don’t try and micromanage their job.

Rinse and repeat with all your key positions. 

Then get your department managers to run their departments in the same way. If you try and micromanage everything, you will lower the morale in your store, and productivity will grind to a halt if everything has to go through you.

Going back to what I said above about a bad attitude, make sure you deal with those employees swiftly.

Even the best grocery store manager will find themselves with 1 or 2 of these people no matter how good their hiring and screening process is.

Luckily, I walk you through everything you need to know about how to fire an employee with a bad attitude in a recent article.

Left unchecked, these 1 or 2 people can bring down the morale and efficiency of the whole store and if you don’t deal with it, all the other employees will lose respect for you.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What skills do you need to be a grocery store manager?

I mentioned above that you have to be good at wearing many different hats.

So a good grocery store manager is a generalist, not a specialist. You will hire specialists for positions like:

  • Wine Buyer
  • Butcher
  • Cheese Monger

But it’s not your job to be the expert at everything.

You do want to know a little bit about a lot of things. But you can’t be in all places at all times, so the most important skill you need is the ability to find, screen, hire, and mentor good people for the roles and positions under yours.

But beyond that, here are some other skills that will serve you well as a grocery store manager:

  • Be good at time management and productivity
  • Communicate clearly and calmly
  • Be timely with your communication
  • Focus on 1 task at a time – multitasking is an illusion (one I struggled with for many years)
  • The ability to stay calm under pressure
  • Knowing when to make quick decisions and when to get a group consensus
  • A keen eye for detail (especially in your store’s merchandising and cleanliness)
  • A head for numbers (so you can keep track of your store’s performance and step in before problems get bigger)

What makes a good store manager?

Ultimately a great store manager is someone who knows how to treat people well; both employees and customers.

They know how to balance all the different priorities that come their way and they don’t get overwhelmed. They stay calm under pressure and don’t let the tensions of the job get the best of them. Most importantly, they don’t pass those tensions on to the employees under them.

Now having said that, don’t mistake that for a lack of a sense of urgency.

There are times when you, as the store manager, need to act quickly and decisively. But that doesn’t mean rashly, emotionally, or in anger.

Next, make sure the rules apply to everyone, including yourself.

No one respects being reprimanded for something they saw someone else do and get away with. If you have double standards or think the rules don’t apply to you, your morale will plummet.

When morale problems happen, productivity suffers. Then customer service goes down. All of that WILL impact your sales, profitability, and could threaten your job.

Don’t do it.

The rules either apply to everyone, or they may as well apply to no one.

I once had a boss (not at Whole Foods) who thought it was OK to take products for himself without paying for it. He didn’t try to hide it, so guess what? Eventually, lots of the employees began to do it too.

After all, why is it OK for the boss to steal and not the employees?

Do grocery store managers work on weekends?

Yes, is the short answer. At least the good ones.

Late afternoons and weekends are when your store is the busiest. So I never understood why some grocery store managers tried to get away with working Monday through Friday from 7 am to 3 pm.

If you, as the boss, are never there to see your store at it’s busiest, how can you gauge what’s working and what’s not working? If an employee brings a problem to your attention, you won’t have any firsthand knowledge of it.

You also won’t be interacting with the majority of your customers.

But most importantly, your employees won’t respect you. After all, you’re asking them to work evenings and weekends but aren’t willing to do it yourself.

No one likes double standards. And the morale, and then the productivity of your employees will go down. So don’t be afraid to get in the trenches with them.

You don’t have to work 24/7 and you don’t even have to be there both weekend days.

But work at least 1 or 2 shifts each week where you are there until at least 8 pm and work at least 1 weekend day most weeks.  You’ll see ALL sides of your store that way. You will also get to interact with more of your employees and customers.

And when problems come up, you will have likely already seen it yourself.

Did I cover everything you wanted to know about what grocery store managers do?

In this article, I took a look at the world of grocery store managers.

We examined how to become one, what makes a good one, and answered all the questions related to that. Specifically, we answered the question of what does a grocery store manager do.

Are you wanting to become a grocery store manager?

Beyond that, have you ever thought about owning your own grocery store?

If you have, make sure and check out a recent article where I break down how much grocery store owners make. After all, you don’t want to move in that direction if the salary potential doesn’t line up with your budget.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Jeff Campbell

Hi! I'm Jeff Campbell. I was a leader for Whole Foods Market for over 2 decades. I worked in 9 stores in 4 states, not counting the hundred-plus stores I've assisted in other ways. I was a Global All-Star, a Gold Pen Winner, and won Top-10 Store (company-wide) 3 times in addition to Best New Store (company-wide).

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