What Does a Retail Product Manager Do?

K. Kinsella

A retail product manager is responsible for overseeing the development of new products or managing the marketing and enhancement of existing products. Typically, a retail product manager must have completed an undergraduate degree program in business or a related field and some employers also require industry specific academic credentials. In most instances, managers are people who have previously worked in marketing or as designers.

Retail product managers may coordinate with distribution firms.
Retail product managers may coordinate with distribution firms.

The life cycle of a particular item begins at the design stage during which a retail product manager must review various product prototypes and decide which one to produce. Managers are responsible for controlling the design budget which means setting aside sufficient funds for development but not allowing the design stage to go on for so long that the process is not ultimately cost effective. During this process, the manager may consult a market research firm to gather data related to the kinds of products and services that consumers would like to see coming onto the market. In many instances, managers must gain the approval of senior management before beginning wholesale production.

Experience working in retail is a plus for people interested in becoming a product manager.
Experience working in retail is a plus for people interested in becoming a product manager.

During the production phase, the retail product manager must negotiate contracts with retailers and distribution firms. The manager must ensure that sufficient quantities of the new item are being produced to satisfy the demand but this individual must also ensure that the company does not produce excessive quantities of a product that are unlikely to be sold. As with the development phase, the manager has to carefully manage the budget by comparing production costs with projected sales data. During this stage, the manager also must decide on a price for the product; the pricing decision should be made after carefully reviewing the production and distribution costs.

Retail product managers might determine merchandise pricing.
Retail product managers might determine merchandise pricing.

Aside from handling matters related to new items, product managers are also responsible for negotiating with retailers to distribute existing products. Managers are often tasked with expanding company operations by marketing newly developed products in areas where the company has no existing business presence. Consequently, a manager overseeing operations across international borders may need to possess second language skills. If sales of a particular product have fallen, the product manager must decide whether to stop production or attempt to redesign or modify the product so as to generate more sales.

Retail product managers may market to specific customer demographics.
Retail product managers may market to specific customer demographics.

While people employed in these roles need to have some knowledge of business and marketing, most firms also require job applicants to have industry specific experience or academic credentials. A manager working for a pharmaceutical firm must have some knowledge of chemistry to oversee product development. Consequently, many product managers have both general business degrees and undergraduate or postgraduate degrees in another topic.

A retail product manager may be in charge of product selection for a retail chain.
A retail product manager may be in charge of product selection for a retail chain.

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