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How Do I Start a Career in Retail Category Management?

Maggie Worth
Maggie Worth

Category managers are professionals who focus on one specific section of a business's market. If you are interested in starting a career in retail category management, you may want to consider formal training in business, category management, and finance. Gaining experience within your desired category and within the retail sector is also desirable. If any specialty certifications are available in your retail segment or geography, these can also help boost your career.

Training and education can be distinct advantages when pursuing a career in retail category management. A formal degree may not be necessary but may help you land a better-paying job. Any bachelor's degree can increase your chances, but a business degree may be the most beneficial. While studying for a business degree, you gain important knowledge about accounting, retail strategy, and marketing. If your program offers a track in retail or category management, this may offer additional benefits.

Businessman giving a thumbs-up
Businessman giving a thumbs-up

If you aren't ready to pursue a bachelor's degree, or if you already have a degree in a nonbusiness field, you can benefit from other formal training in business and retail category management. Universities, community colleges, and technical schools often offer certificate programs or single classes in applicable topics, and many are available online. Professional training or continuing education facilities may be other options.

Experience in the retail sector can also help you move into retail category management. This can include field management positions, such as store or district management, but can also include corporate roles in marketing, accounting, and operations. The best experience will demonstrate that you understand how a product is merchandised within a store, how customers shop, and how supplier contracts affect stocking, displays, and pricing.

Gaining experience in your desired category can also be important. If, for example, you would like to manage the office supply category of a grocery store, experience in selling, marketing, or buying office supplies can help you move into the role you want. Experience with the product can translate into knowledge of how to position it within a retail store. You might also begin with a role as a category assistant or buyer.

Certificates or certifications can also help you begin a retail category management career. Category management involves accounting, purchasing, and contract negotiation as well as merchandising and staff training. A certificate from a professional negotiating course or strategic positioning seminar proves both your understanding of important facets of category management and your dedication to improving your skills and body of knowledge.

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