What Education Does a Grocery Store Manager Need?


Grocery store managers oversee the day-to-day operations of grocery stores. They are in charge of every aspect of a store’s operations including supervising personnel, inventory and tracking financials. But many who aspire to run a store often wonder what education does a grocery store manager need?

Here’s what I learned in running many stores:

Many large grocery chains like Whole Foods & Walmart don’t require a college degree. However, Target does require one. Some like Trader Joes, Safeway & Kroger strongly recommend a degree & favor candidates with one. But there’s no substitute for the education you get starting in a store and working your way up.

But that’s just the beginning!

After all, each company has different requirements and even those like Trader Joes or Target that do require formal education still have different experience requirements too.

Maybe you’re considering getting in the grocery store management but you aren’t sure where to start.

Are there special education requirements? We’ll examine several of the most popular grocery store chains and their requirements to go into management.

Just keep reading!

Just getting started in the grocery business?

If so, your first step is to get a job in one to gain experience and start working your way up.

Luckily, I get into the best tips and strategies for getting hired at a grocery store and beating out dozens of other applicants in one of my recent articles. After all, I’ve literally hired thousands of employees for Whole Foods Market. So I know what works and what doesn’t.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

What degree or education do you need to be a grocery store manager?

Some companies only require a high school diploma or GED.

Others require a high school diploma but would prefer a four-year degree in business or some other related field. The education required will depend largely on the company doing the hiring.

1. Walmart

While Walmart doesn’t require any formal education, they do expect you to have experience supervising employees and have some general management experience under your belt.

Because they sell firearms, Walmart also requires you to complete a general firearms training and pass a criminal background check. If they only sell ammunition you have to obtain a specialized certificate to sell ammunition.

2. Safeway

Safeway’s educational preference consists of some college and some retail experience combined for a total of 4 years.

This could mean a two-year college degree combined with two years of retail/retail management. It could also mean that you are a high school graduate and have four years of retail/retail management experience.

3. Kroger

Kroger only requires a high school diploma or its equivalent. They also want you to be proficient in computer usage and have a lift truck certification or license.

Kroger prefers that you have a four-year degree in business or some related field. They also prefer that you know the Fred Meyer policies, procedures, and organizational structure.

This means that most likely they’re going to hire in-house because their in-house employees are the ones who are going to have the most solid knowledge of their policies.

Although Kroger’s minimum requirements are high school diploma or GED, they’re going to give preferential treatment to people with experience or a bachelor’s degree.

4. Trader Joes

Trader Joe’s does not have an education requirement, but they require 3 years of recent retail, restaurant or hospitality experience. They also require two years of recent experience at the supervisory level. While they don’t require a bachelor’s degree, they do prefer that you have one.

Target’s educational requirement is that you have a four-year degree or equivalent experience.

5. Whole Foods Market

Whole Foods doesn’t have any educational requirements.

But they do want you to be proficient in math. They also want you to have an understanding of computer applications and programs including things like Microsoft Office.

It may have changed since Amazon bought them, but when I ran stores for them, all the most successful store managers worked their way up from the bottom. And that was encouraged.

What qualifications do you need to be a store manager?

Generally, to be a store manager or department manager, you’re going to have to be proficient with computers. You’ll most likely need to track inventory and have a good grasp of math.

You’re also going to need to have effective communication skills and be a good leader.

Being a manager also requires the ability to pay close attention to detail, to prioritize tasks, and to be able to work in a fast-paced environment. Management is not just about leading employees. It’s also about making sure that customers are delighted, shelves are stocked, and money is managed appropriately.

Managers also need to be available to work flexible hours.

Being a manager of a store is not a Monday through Friday kind of job. They are typically busy all day, especially on weekends and holidays, and often work long hours.

In addition to educational requirements, some companies have age restrictions or require specialized training or certificates.

For example, Walmart doesn’t require any formal education, but they do expect you to have experience supervising employees and have some general management experience under your belt.

Walmart also prefers that you have experience running a fresh or dry grocery area.

Also, they want you to have several years of experience supervising 50+ employees, including performance management, mentoring, hiring and firing.

They’d also like for you to have four years or more of general management experience that includes financial responsibilities.

If you don’t have a good handle yet on grocery store profit margins, don’t worry!

I break it down simply and easily in a recent article. After all, grocery store profit margins are surprisingly small. So there isn’t a lot of room for error on the part of the store manager.

Just click that link to read it on my site.

Can I be a manager without a degree?

Absolutely!

I don’t have a college degree and I ran stores as a GM (General Manager) for Whole Foods for many years. Whole Foods calls GMs Store Team Leaders. All told, as either a GM or assistant GM, I worked in 9 stores in 4 states over 14 years.

While it’s true that some employers like Kroger or Trader Joes prefer their store managers to have a degree, most large grocery chains don’t. And in my experience, someone with 5 years of experience working in a store will trump someone fresh out of college every time.

People with experience understand the ins and outs of the store, the employees that work there, and the customer base.

They understand the products, the organizational structure, and store policies. They also understand the relationship customers have with the store. These are things that can’t be taught in school.

If they haven’t worked their way up through the ranks at a store, there’s just a lot they don’t know. And coming in at the top and trying to learn it then is tough.

If you don’t have a degree, make sure that you have effective communication skills and put yourself in a position to gain leadership skills.

Also, consider taking business courses online in computers generally, Excel, or anything related to profit and loss.

If you don’t know what to take, or you don’t know the gaps that need to be filled, look at job descriptions from your desired companies. These job descriptions will give you insights into the type of candidate they are looking for. They will very thoroughly list the required skills.

You can find some great courses online, many of which are free.

List these courses on your resume even if you haven’t completed them yet. Just be sure to make it clear that the courses are currently in progress. This shows that you are taking the initiative to sharpen your skills and it’s a great way to show your commitment to prospective employers.

How do I become a manager with no experience?

In short, you will have to gain experience.

The good news is that below a store manager, there’s an assistant store manager. Then department managers below that and assistant department managers too. Then there are supervisors and shift leaders.

It’s very easy to work your way up. And if you’re dedicated, hard-working, and flexible, you can do that pretty quickly.

Look at your current or past positions and see what skills are transferrable into management.

Managers need to be comfortable giving presentations, developing and interpreting policies or processes, recruiting and interviewing, and creating schedules.

  • Do you have any financial responsibilities at your current company or in the past?
  • Are you calm under pressure and good at juggling multiple priorities?
  • Have you taught, coached or mentored someone?

You also need to know how to manage conflict have difficult conversations and give feedback to lower-level employees.

Chances are you’ve had some exposure to at least a few of these responsibilities throughout your career. You just need to explain how these experiences can translate into a leadership role.

Most importantly, you need to be able to manage multiple priorities calmly, efficiently and quickly.

There have been days in my career where in a matter of minutes I had to deal with the following:

  • An employee was badly injured
  • A customer slipped and fell and was injured or required an ambulance
  • A piece of equipment caught on fire
  • My boss called to ask about a concerning financial matter
  • Someone was trying to return a large purchase and didn’t have the product or receipt but wasn’t afraid to yell and make a scene

So never underestimate the importance of being able to juggle multiple priorities and make quick decisions coolly and calmly.

If I have a lot of experience, can I become a grocery store manager without a degree?

Generally speaking, you can start your career towards management without a college degree.

Leadership skills are seldom taught in college. Typically a bachelor’s degree is a way of screening people without retail experience into the recruitment and selection of management personnel.

Managers are leaders. The best leaders can work in teams and get to know the staff. They want to coach and mentor. And they model behavior that supports company values. These are skills that cannot be taught.

Other skills, like performing accounting, keeping records, or taking inventory can be taught. These skills will likely be taught in-house as every company has its own system for these processes.

Grocery chains that hire store managers without a degree

If you want to go into management, you’re in luck.

Below is a list of popular grocery chains that do not require a degree. I’ve also made note of any special training each company requires. Most companies are going to do their own in-house training, too.

Walmart While Walmart doesn’t require any formal education, they do expect you to have experience supervising employees and have some general management experience under your belt.

They’ll give preferential treatment to folks that have at least a year of experience running a grocery area. They also prefer that applicants have at least four years of experience supervising 50 or more employees. Their website also indicates that they want applicants to have at least four years of general management experience that includes Financial accountability.

Because they sell firearms, Walmart also requires you to complete a general firearms training and pass a criminal background check. If they only sell ammunition you have to obtain a specialized certificate to sell ammunition.

Safeway Safeway will hire you without a college degree, but they require that you have a minimum of 4 years’ experience in the retail/retail management industry.
Kroger Kroger will hire you without a college degree, but they prefer that you have a Bachelor’s Degree in business or some other related field.
Whole Foods Whole Foods does not have any formal education requirements.

Grocery chains that require store managers to have a degree

Several stores require store managers to have a four-year degree.

Note that Safeway and Kroger are both listed in each list. Though they name a high school diploma as a minimum requirement, they each make it abundantly clear that they prefer candidates with a four-year degree.

Safeway Safeway will hire you without a college degree, but they require that you have a minimum of 4 years’ experience in the retail/retail management industry.

Safeway’s job description makes it pretty clear that they prefer to hire people with a college degree. If you don’t have a college degree, they want an abundance of retail and retail management experience.

They also strongly prefer candidates that have a retail management certificate through WAFC.

Kroger Kroger will hire you without a college degree, but they prefer that you have a Bachelor’s Degree in business or some other related field.

Like Safeway, Kroger makes it very clear that they prefer applicants to have a four-year degree in business or a related field. They also expect applicants to know Fred Meyer policies, procedures, and organizational structure. Additionally, they require you to have a Fred Meyer lift license. This leads me to believe that they will most likely hire their managers in house.

Trader Joe’s Not only does Trader Joe’s want you to have a bachelor’s degree, but they also want you to have a minimum of two years experience at the management or supervisory level. Also, they want you to have at least three years experience of recent retail restaurant or hospitality. They also want you to have a “history of developing individuals and teams through empowerment and integrity.”
Target Target wants you to have a four-year degree or equivalent experience.

Did I cover all you wanted to know about grocery store management positions and whether you need a college degree to get hired?

Grocery store managers carry a lot of weight on their shoulders.

Not only are they responsible for day-to-day operations, but they’re also responsible for personnel issues and helping the company reach long-term goals. they need to be able to communicate effectively with customers as well as staff.

As a result, managers are expected to be able to wear many hats. But I can tell you having run million-dollar stores for Whole Foods Market for many years, while some employers may require a degree, there’s no substitute for learning as you work your way up.

Not only does that make you a better leader than someone fresh out of college with a piece of paper in their hand but minimal experience, but you’ll earn the trust and respect from your employees a lot faster too.

What’s one of the most important skills to know as a store manager?

If you guessed merchandising, you’d be right! Of course, you also need financial skills, customer service skills, and leadership skills too. But if your store looks terrible, your sales will suffer along with all of those other areas.

Luckily, I cover merchandising skills in-depth in a recent article.

Merchandising is weird because it’s part-skill and part-art. So it involves both sides of your brain. But, as a former leader at Whole Foods once said, it’s also not rocket science.

Just click that link to read that on my site.


Links to job descriptions:

Trader Joe’s

Target

Safeway

Kroger

Walmart

Whole Foods

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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