Retail Dogma

How to Become a District Manager?

The goal of almost every store manager is to one day become responsible for multiple units, by becoming a District Manager or Area Manager. In this article, we will lay down what it takes to become an Area Manager.

What Do District Managers Do?

District Managers are responsible for a set number of retail stores, within a defined region. They are responsible for the store operations, financial performance, and talent management and development within that particular region.

On a retail organization chart, District Managers report to the Regional Manager or Retail Operations Manager responsible for the bigger region the district belongs to.

Educational Requirements for a District Manager

First off, we want to start by saying that you do not need to hold a Bachelor’s Degree to become a District Manager.

In fact, according to the job description at a District Manager job post at Starbucks (below), only High School or GED is required as a minimum, and college degree can act as a substitute for experience.

District Manager Job description at Starbucks
Source: Starbucks Career Site

Required Skills for a District Manager

  • Leadership Skills
  • Talent Management
  • Communication Skills
  • Problem Solving Skills
  • Business Acumen & Financial Knowledge

People Management Experience

The key to becoming a District Manager is having a strong people management experience. This could come in the form of managing store employees across multiple units, or managing quite a large team of employees (5 or more) at one location.

Of course, having a multi-unit experience increases your odds, for the reason we will mention below.

As a District Manager, you will be expected to have an influence at all the units you will be managing, without being present there day in & day out. This requires a high level of leadership skills, that can help you influence your team’s behavior even in your absence.

Another key is the ability to manage managers. If you have been a manager at one small store, you might have had the experience of managing junior staff. Now when you transition to a regional role, you will be leading leaders of other stores. Every manager you manage will have a team that he/she is responsible for, and your job is to make those leaders great leaders to their own teams, without interfering too much in their own operation, so you can give them a space to learn and develop.

You might find it difficult in beginning, but as you develop your leadership and coaching skills, this will become easier.

Required Financial & Operational Knowledge

When you transition from a Store Manager to an Area Manager, you will start being responsible for the financial performance of your stores; rather than only the operational side and customer experience.


You will start managing the profit & loss (P&L) statements of each location, and will need to develop your own strategies to maximize the overall profitability of your district, by managing your resources efficiently

Read our detailed guide on P&L management

Another area you will start to get deeper into is inventory. You will need to make the most out of it, by optimizing its availability in your stores through frequent communication with the merchandisers, and, if needed, request the movement of some stock between your locations to sell them faster.

Read our inventory management guide

How to Develop into This Role?

If you are currently at Store Manager level and want to develop into this role, start by asking for multi-unit responsibilities. This does not necessarily mean managing multiple units end-to-end, but you can start by managing a certain function of the business across multiple stores.

For example, you could be responsible for Talent across 3 stores; identifying potential talents and developing them in coordination with their respective Store Managers.

Taking additional responsibilities is always a good primer for higher roles, and shows that you are ambitious and willing to go the extra mile. Additionally, when you start taking on those responsibilities, you will start developing your own personal skills, by coming across scenarios you have never seen before in your normal role.

Show Your Work & Express Interest

Finally, to develop into such role, you will need to show your work and express your interest in reaching this level. Don’t assume that your manager automatically knows that you want this role. Instead; have a discussion with your manager, and ask for feedback on what you need to work on, in order to reach that level.

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