Retail NaviGator

The Retail NaviGator - our communication to you about our research on retailing issues and the activities of the David F. Miller Center. This ongoing media change creates a direct connection to the retailing community in a way that keeps information current, direct and GREEN!

In this issue:

Robert Martin, Bridgestone/Firestone, Betsy Trobaugh, Director, Miller Center and Michael Maragelis, Bridgestone/Firestone-Tampa

Firestone and Tires Plus Name Leadership Room

Robert Martin and Michael Maragelis of Bridgestone/Firestone presented a check to Betsy Trobaugh, Director of the David F. Miller Center for Retailing. Together, Bridgestone/Firestone and Tires Plus have named the Leadership Room of the new Miller Center scheduled to open later this year. In addition to Bridgestone/Firestone and Tires Plus, Toys R US and Hess have partnered with the Center to support the renovation and development of the new location. This site will provide better access for students within the Warrington College of Business Administration to see and experience the retailing opportunities. It will also be the meeting place for students conducting research and focus groups. The spacious environment will accommodate all staff and faculty focused on educating students and guiding them into retail careers.

Rapid Advancement Sends Gator to Corporate Marketing

Alex O'Connor studied finance at the University of Florida. Like many others, he was involved with on-campus finance organizations, grabbed an internship in finance and dreamed about a career in finance. One unexpected experience changed his life.

Before the sub-prime meltdown, O'Connor interned with a major financial company working with insurance services. The internship trained him well, but he wanted something more than crunching numbers. He wanted a career with more excitement. Bewildered after the experience, he went to the Career Showcase and met a representative from Tires Plus. "Would you like the opportunity to make over $100,000 a year as a store manager for Tires Plus within the next 3-5 years?" caught O'Connor's attention. O'Connor learned the management position with Tires Plus would allow him to run a business. The career offered the daily excitement his prior internship had lacked. And, as a numbers man, the position made financial sense.

In the fall of 2007, concerns about the sub-prime market were growing. O'Connor saw the stability Tires Plus could offer him, being a car care company. "It seemed logical to me that if people weren't purchasing new cars, they were going to have to put more money into their existing vehicles," he explained.

O'Connor worked at a Gainesville Tires Plus location and was soon promoted to a Service Manager in Jacksonville. When he started, O'Connor knew nothing about cars, which is something a lot of college grads have in common, but Tires Plus provided him with the knowledge he needed to be successful in his new career. In addition, he had the opportunity to for hands-on tasks, which was something he could not find in the financial industry. O'Connor also enjoyed the store experience because it allowed for competition within the company. He described it as a sport, "Every day you go into your store, and try to beat last year's numbers and have an impact on your goals."

O'Connor enjoyed working for a company that is, as he described it, "transcending the stereotypes associated with automotive repair." Gaining the customer's trust by offering exceptional service was something he believed in, and this helped him succeed as a service manager.

True to the company culture of Tires Plus, dedication leads to more opportunity. O'Connor considered a position in the marketing department of the corporate headquarters in Clearwater, Fla. He is now the marketing coordinator for the company.

As marketing coordinator, O'Connor works on sponsorships with professional sports teams such as the Orlando Magic, Tampa Bay Lightning, Minnesota Wild and Washington Capitals. He creatively coordinates game promotions and works closely with the teams. Fortunately, this new position still offers that day-to-day excitement O'Connor sought when managing a service center.

In 2007, O'Connor started with Tires Plus as an intern. Now, he is supporting the stores in a new capacity. He is just one example of how rapidly a Gator can advance in the retail industry. O'Connor recommends that students stand out in the early stages of their internship or full-time position. "Find something that you can do well, find a niche, and become the best you can be in that area."

O'Connor was the typical undergraduate finance student who faced a frightening outlook for a financial career. After applying his finance training to retail, O'Connor has become a successful Gator and will continue to have a lucrative career with Tires Plus. O'Connor recommends that Gators consider Tires Plus, "It's one of the best choices I've ever made."

Entrepreneurship Course Inspires Gator

By Kristen Hadeed

When I started cleaning houses as a sophomore, I was just trying to make extra money to help pay for my college education. I, never in a million years, dreamed that two years later I'd be the owner of Student Maid, a residential and commercial cleaning company that employs 65 UF students.

I think it all started when I took "Principles of Entrepreneurship" course my junior year. I realized that some of the most successful companies were started with just a few thousand dollars and a motive to improve upon an existing idea. Notice used the word "existing" and not "novel." It does not necessarily take an original thought to be successful; maybe it is just a new way of doing things, or a small improvement of some sort. I did precisely that, with only $3000 in my pocket and an idea that would change the cleaning industry. I decided to only hire students, and require a minimum GPA of a 3.5 (hence our slogan, "Cleaning with Class").

I made client satisfaction and community involvement our number one priorities, and catered to a market that had rarely been explored: student and faculty housing. I decided to offer , in addition to cleaning services, babysitting, pet sitting, house sitting, dog walking, party preparation and cleanup, and organizational services. I learned that there are low cost marketing tools like an exceptional web site. My web site,, gets a lot of attention and drives new business to my company. Before I knew it, our clientele was growing steadily and we had a contract with a major property management team in Gainesville to handle their move out cleanings during turnover.

I have built a reputable and dependable service in Gainesville, while learning a lot about the ''real world' along the way. It turns out that the stuff they teach you in school really is valuable, and it actually can be applied to any situation (who knew!). After I graduate in May, I will stay in Gainesville with hopes of taking Student Maid to new heights. I look forward to this journey, and I hope to spread some entrepreneurial spirit along the way. I have learned that the impossible can be made possible with the right drive and determination, so get out there and turn your dreams into a reality! What are you waiting for?

December Grads take to Retail Careers

While studying at the University of Florida, Sam Schiller worked part-time with Publix. Not really knowing what he would do after college, he did know, at the time, that he "actually liked going to work."

During his junior year, Schiller accepted a corporate internship with Winn Dixie. His project involved developing a management training program with store managers. The daily association with management and the broad scope of what grocery retailing offers tweaked his interest. The fast business, the interaction with customers and the progressive thinking of the company turned his career focus to grocery retailing. His second Winn Dixie experience landed him as part of management in Orlando, Fla. "This was the turning point for me. Grocery retailing is fun!"

In January 2010, Schiller will be responsible for non-perishables and dairy as a new Winn Dixie center store manager, which covers seventy percent of what the store sells. Despite this responsibility, Schiller feels secure that his training has prepared him. "It's simple," said Schiller, "customers want to shop and cook. All I have to do is help them get what they need to do it". His interest in being a neighborhood grocer will allow him learn about the needs of the community. The creative attitude of Winn Dixie provides Schiller with the environment to try new ideas and make shopping enjoyable. "Winn Dixie is an old company with a startup attitude."

Schiller recommends that students spend their undergraduate years working to find their passion. He thinks taking courses is helpful, but getting out and working at a job or an internship is the most beneficial because a student can experience an industry and feel the culture of a company. This is a great way for a student to discover a passion. "Once you find it, everything else is cake...which you can get at Winn Dixie!"

As an undergraduate, Rebecca McEntire knew leadership was her destiny, but couldn't visualize working in any specific industry until she accepted an internship with Winn Dixie. During her internship she helped the company develop internship programs for future Gators andshe developed tuition reimbursement programs for the company. She admits that once she was exposed to retailing, she was excited to learn more. "I continued to pursue a retailing education because it was an industry that was fast and exciting. I knew I wanted to meet more leaders and manage a store."

McEntire began an executive team leader position with Target in Chicago in January 2010. After two incredible summers with corporate internships, she decided it was time to be trained in a store claiming, "It was time for me to enhance my skills to lead a team and help my customers." She believes that management is about helping people to do better and grow, "How often do you get a chance to do that? I look forward to learning more and advancing within Target. "

When asked to advise Gators about careers in retailing, she recommended obtaining as much experience as possible because it helped her make an educated career decision. Attending workshops, getting a part-time job, taking classes and talking to visiting executives are all part of getting a retail education.

Kmart's Changes Enhance Shopping Experience

By Allen Jackson

Robert Bly is the current regional vice president and general manager of Sears Holdings Corporation. He visited the University of Florida to discuss the strategic development and operational reformation of the K-Mart brand.

Bly discussed training of personnel to enhance the customer image of Kmart as a first step in the reformation of Kmart. He emphasized a strategy termed, "getting better every day," which includes better employee training and a more customer-oriented approach to shopping.

Kmart has worked to remodel stores as well to enhance the customer shopping experience. Bly explained that wider aisles drive sales and provide convenience for the customer. He started the "Clean and Bright" initiative within current stores that targets constant cleanliness, no matter the age or condition of the building. The program also focuses on better lighting within the stores to clearly illuminate all aisles and merchandise. By implementing this program, all stores are visually satisfying and provide the customer with a favorable environment in which to shop. Additionally, better signage is helping to enhance the image of Kmart by making specific department more exciting and engaging.

Part of the reformation objective of Kmart is offering excellent customer service. Bly highlighted this by developing a customer service pledge. Customers may rate the service they received through online surveys and evaluations, which allows employees to gain recognition for their superior service to customers. It also allows Kmart to become aware of mistakes in current processes. By leveraging the information gathered on the surveys, Bly hopes to continually improve the service and image of Kmart.

Finally, Bly recognized that some of Kmart's past practices have not been efficient. In order to better customer services, it was necessary to streamline processes within the store. For example, by upgrading technology and receiving methods, merchandise turnover has increased. Fully loaded trucks take about an hour and a half to unload. Replenishment takes about 12 hours, making the merchandise available when the customer wants it. With this strategy of implementing new ideas, Kmart is able to reach higher levels in customer satisfaction.

Fresh Checked Ideas at Winn Dixie

By Bryan Cowan

Shawn Sloan, Vice President of Retail Operations for Winn-Dixie Stores, spoke at the University of Florida Friday about Winn-Dixie and how the company is redefining both their brand and image.

First explaining some of the missteps that led to bankruptcy in 2005, Mr. Sloan explained how the company has changed and described Winn-Dixie's progress on their initiative to remodel the entire store footprint. Additionally, he outlined some of the challenges they've faced in remodeling about half their 521 stores. The emphasis is on fresh; fresh products and a fresh, bright store look. Remodeled stores have more organics, an expanded produce section, and open seafood area.

Mr. Sloan talked about how Winn-Dixie's neighborhood marketing program customizes stores based on the local market to better cater to customers. For example, stores may include a kosher deli in certain areas or for largely Hispanic markets, more specialized merchandise, different product packaging and advertising circulars, as well as a store interior with a brighter color palette.

Turning to trends in private label merchandise he offered some observations on the growth of store brands and how the economic downturn has affected American perceptions of private label. He explained how Winn-Dixie revamped their private labels with three distinct lines targeted at different value segments. On the company's main Winn-Dixie brand the packaging was redesigned with a "smile logo" and has seen increases in sales from this refresh in look.

Some of other marketing initiatives he mentioned focus on giving customers the value they're looking for with Half-Off's, 10-for-10's, and a new Fuel-Perks program. As one of the only grocery chains that use a customer loyalty card, Winn-Dixie is in a unique position to use customer data to see how marketing programs are progressing and to offer targeted promotions to individual customers.

Retail Real Estate and the Surprising Effect it has on the Economy

By Gentry Adams

It is no surprise to hear how retail sales are challenged by the economy. Analysts deliberate about minute fluctuations and hold their breath with predictions. An important aspect of how the economy affects retailing that is rarely considered during the frenzied debate is retail real estate.

Michael Kercheval, president of the International Council of Shopping Centers, recently spoke to students about how the economy shapes real estate and how real estate can revitalize the economy.

Retail real estate is unique because it deeply impacts the value of the property surrounding it. Kercheval compared leasing real estate to merchandising a store. When leasing space, demographics and clientele must be considered and then placement of the right mix of businesses to draw customers to a center and keep them returning. This logic, much like merchandising in which, the idea is to put in the right mix of merchandise to maximize total sales, also works well for successful shopping centers. Developers that think this way are the most important people in real estate because they think like merchants and understand how to allocate (space) effectively.

Shopping centers are more than just retail space. They are the core of communities and the hub of socialization and living according to Kercheval. Modern outdoor and lifestyle centers are a return to the "downtown of olden-days" model of town squares and bazaars. Shopping centers allow commerce, retail, and life to blend seamlessly so people can socialize while enjoying their shopping experience. Also, successful shopping centers can revitalize a city or a downtown area because they bring new life to the city.

Retail real estate also plays a strong role in creating economic development in both the United States and globally, by increasing the standard of living. More than just giving money and resources away, retail employs large numbers of people; creating job opportunities and skill development where there previously was none.

Playing to Win

Teresa Orth, Vice President of Human Resources for Toys"R"Us, Inc. and board member of the David F. Miller Center for Retailing, has seen it all during her 21 years of experience working for America's iconic toy retailer.

Against increased competition, Toys"R"Us had to discover the unique qualities that separates it from big box retailers such as Wal-Mart and Target. Toys"R"Us offers a differentiated shopping experience and this provides the leverage needed to stand out from the others. As Orth explained, "We create joy and bring a smile at the end of the day."

With that in mind, Toys"R"Us has become a growth company. By acquiring FAO Schwarz and numerous e-commerce sites, Toys"R"Us has been able to provide an experience outside of the traditional four walls. However, the path to growth came with its difficulties. "There seemed to be a lack of progress in the beginning because of uncertainty," said Orth, "which is common during transitions." In 2005, Toys"R"Us became private and soon thereafter obtained a new CEO, Jerry Storch.

With new leadership and a "Playing to Win" attitude, the Toys"R"Us culture has been re-energized. "When faced with challenging times, corporations must change and not become a victim," Orth explained. "A driving factor for success is wanting to be better today than yesterday and knowing thyself." Sticking with the basics of providing the experience of toy shopping has allowed Toys"R"Us to build momentum. Over the recent holiday season, Toys"R"Us used empty mall locations to open Express stores to help grow market share.

When asked about what to consider in a retail career by students, Orth talked about the same principles. "Find someone who has the same values and offers commitment and growth." It is all about going back to the basics of what students really want in their career. "Think about a career in big steps not little steps so you are in it for the long-term with the company". A long-term outlook will allow students to grow with a company and have multiple careers within one organization. All in all, when faced with challenges, have a positive outlook and the desire to make it work and success will come.

Retail Navigator

This electronic newsletter from The David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research is issued throughout the year to provide updates on what is happening in retailing at the University of Florida. Information regarding student outreach, jobs, internships, research and retailing connections throughout the country will be included. We hope you enjoy seeing what Gators are doing in the retail industry!


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Warrington College of Business
BRY 100
PO Box 117150
Gainesville, FL 32611-7150
Phone: 352.392.2397
Fax: 352.392.2086

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