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:

The Economy of Less Meant More

By Cecilia Schulz

The summer of 2010 surprised all of us. Our challenged economy brought fears to both retailers and students. But never in the history of the Miller Center did so many students experience retailing internships. Confused, I went to the source and asked the interns why they considered this industry. John Foster, a marketing senior, said he was initially seeking internships with marketing and sales organizations, but decided upon Wal-Mart because of their executive mentorship program which showed Foster that they really cared about developing their people. "The opportunities after graduation are amazing as you can do anything! Sam Walton was an entrepreneur and that set the tone of the Wal-Mart culture."

Jonathan Arton, a finance junior bound for law school, changed gears after experiencing a retail internship. "At Winn Dixie, I became alive! The stores, the people, the creativity involved in running a business changed my thinking. Retail is business. Retail requires different thinkers. I think I can be that difference."

Overall, student interns had management experience whether they worked in a store or at a desk as a buyer intern. "Management experience is essential as we will all manage a team at some point," says Jose Castro, executive intern with Sears Holdings, "The management experiences from my internship are priceless!"

They say variety is the spice of life and regarding the retailing internships from summer 2010, this adage holds true. As most years, the majority of positions held are within store management where students learn the basics of driving a business, but many students learned about retailing through positions in buying, sales and logistics. Still, other opportunities were available in IT, analyst, research, sourcing, and communications! This variety of internships stimulated interest from students across campus and it demonstrated a mere sample of the careers available in the industry. Thanks to all of our Gators for making this summer successful and thanks to all of our participating retailers for helping me walk the talk.

Walmart/Sam's Club Corporate Internship

By Luke Porter

Working for the world's largest retailer— let alone the world's largest company—was an exceptional experience. I have had two retail internships while at UF. My internship in a Walgreen's store sparked my interest in retail. This summer my internship with Sam's Club Home Office helped me to better understand retailing from the corporate side. I've enjoyed the academic and strategic perspective of the corporate side and have decided to pursue it for a career.

Each intern is stationed in a department that can train an intern for the summer. I am based in the newly formed Global Sourcing department which consists of only three people. This department's purpose is to assist buyers in the difficult task of importing products directly from foreign manufacturers. Traditionally this service has been facilitated by independent domestic importers who simplify the task for the buyers, but add cost in the process. By bringing this direct importing process inside of the organization, significant costs are saved, control is increased and product selection is widened. However, because of the small size of the department, it has been difficult to effectively realize these gains; which is where I was able to be of assistance. My main project was to assist in creating a plan to justify a dramatic expansion of the department's size. I worked to influence decision makers by showing the need and mapping how the new structure will work to improve costing and control. I have been very fortunate that the plan was recently approved, and will be implemented in October. My other responsibilities were to work with the team in helping to coordinate buyers with overseas manufacturers in the early stages of product development.

With the exceptionally friendly people and the beautiful Ozark Mountains, Wal-Mart and Sam's Club have a remarkable home in NW Arkansas. The company's cherished culture embraces the simplicity and sincerity of this small town mentality and uses it to its advantage. Personally, I was amazed by the humility and approachability of associates at all levels and even had coffee one morning with the CEO! This mentality allows for an enjoyable working environment which cultivates new ideas, relationships and efficiencies.

JCPenney Solidified Career Decision

By Caitlin Citrano

As an economics major, I stood out a little from my fellow JCPenney merchandising interns. I never took trend. I do not have a background in flow and inventory. I never had to learn what a line review was or what product development did. On the other hand, after calculus, accounting (managerial and financial) and finance, I aced the "retail math" class I took with the other interns.

I will be honest. At the beginning of my internship, my lack of knowledge in these areas worried me. Would I be behind? Would I fail because I studied economics and not fashion merchandising? The answer to these questions is no.

Part of the reason I accepted the JCPenney merchandising internship was that I appreciated the depth, detail and concentration of the program. There are only 10 interns in the program, and only one other intern in my entire division. My team concentrated only on my learning, and JCPenney gave us classes to get me caught up where I could actually ask questions. On Winning Together Days, I heard speakers come and talk about product development, marketing, information technology, etc., and these speakers were not just anyone pulled off the street. We heard from the senior vice president of product development, the chief marketing officer, the chief information officer, and had breakfast with the CEO. We got to ask these executive questions and listen to their ideas and concerns. JCPenney is a continuously learning organization.

Even though I found I was not behind in any way, I did have more of a decision to make than other interns. As an economics major, I had no real understanding of what a buyer did on a daily basis, how allocation interacted with planners and how much communication and excel was necessary. I had to decide was whether this career was right for me, but I can tell you that this internship changed me; it simplified and clarified my career path. The reasons why I wanted to go into retail – the creativity, analysis, change and sheer fashion – was found on any team, even mine (Boys Basics, Team, and Athletic Apparel). The company culture, emphasis on learning and open communication, and progressive thinking were the reasons why I decided that this was the right decision.

I can tell you now that I plan to eventually be a buyer, but I know this will not be the final destination on my career path. If one idea had been made clear to me, it is that as fast as retail changes, your job and career path can change as well. JCPenney prides itself on promotion at the 18-month mark. I believe that as a University of Florida student I can hit that mark each time.

Car Care is Customer Service

By Meriem Bendadou

Because students have worked as retail sales representatives before college, they have the perception that work after school has to be outside of a mall, store or shop. Retail has played a significant role in my life. I like to work with people. People are what drove me to retail and it is what continues to drive my passion for the industry. I love assisting customers with any of their needs.

This last summer I was accepted for an internship with Tires Plus because I wanted to learn more about the business world and apply my knowledge of retail. Interning with Tires Plus has helped develop my leadership skills. I was challenged to think on my feet and to make decisions regarding the management of the store. I was assigned tasks with technicians who helped me to understand total car care. Their knowledge helped me to feel more comfortable with engines which in turn helped me to offer better customer service. I was a respected part of the technician team, and not seen as just the "girl intern." I believe I worked hard to earn their trust, by demonstrating I was willing to get "under the hood". Besides, it was fun.

Through Tires Plus, my opinion has changed about the retail car services industry. It is a professional career that offers rapid advancement and a balanced lifestyle. Back at UF, the Miller Center helped me go through my internship by offering a course in addition to my compensation. During the internship program, the Miller Center invited me to a retail conference that gave me an opportunity to network with other interns as well as visiting retailers. As far as my career plans go, I am planning to keep working as a part-time employee in Tires Plus near UF until I graduate. My ultimate goal is to break into the Tires Plus marketing department, where I can use my passion for service and customer service to assist Tires Plus in customer satisfaction and retention. A dream of mine is to one day own and operate a retail store.

Retail Means Business

By Jonathan Arton

Summer internships may look great on resumes, but they should truly be noted for the unparalleled experience they provide to any opportunity one could be offered while in college. The chance to train under an investment banker at a financial institution or an accountant at a popular firm is an experience you simply won't get from sitting through classes. It begs the question of if you know what you want to do with your life, why not take the next step and focus on learning everything you can from a more practical source?

The problem, however, is that not everyone knows what they want to do and most people enjoy many aspects of business. Wouldn't it just be amazing to find an internship that incorporated all forms of business in one career? If you think so, then maybe you too should look into the retail industry.

This past summer, I was given the opportunity to express all that I had learned through a retail internship with Winn-Dixie. As of the end of the semester, I was pretty adamant on becoming a lawyer or possibly working in a bank due to my liking of business, however this summer was beyond doubt a life-changing experience and I know now that retail is where my heart lies.

Technically, I was labeled a "Retail Management Intern", but in practice I focused on many different aspects from management and leadership to marketing and finance, all from within the actual stores. I focused on working in the perishable departments of the company and was exposed to a whole new style of business where idealism meets practicality. Operations, the business of selling and store-level management, is what most people think of when referring to a job in retail, and it is an art to say the least. It was essential for me to act, focus on customer satisfaction and constantly learn what I was selling, which was actually fun since I enjoy conversing and helping people whenever I can. I learned how department managers analyze reports, choose the format for which products to display, and ensure the customers and fellow employees are happy and content on a daily basis. Being a Retail Management Intern and in the stores was definitely an interesting experience, but Winn-Dixie is also an excellent company to get an internship from because they also provide internships in many of their corporate departments including accounting, finance, asset protection and even pharmacy.

With Winn-Dixie, no matter what type of intern you are, there is a corporate project you are assigned and expected to present at the end of your internship. For me, this was the best part of my entire summer. I proposed to find a way to increase the sales in the floral department for various reasons and I had free range to think of and incorporate my ideas into the stores, which if you can't think of the magnitude of this, I will tell you it's a big deal because you could alter the company's perception. I did research, questioned customers, created physical products, and monitored sales data all to the point of creating floral information cards that went over so well they are likely to be incorporated into the company in the near future. I have never been so excited about my work in my life and I would have never had the chance to do something at this level without Winn-Dixie and the retail internship.

So, if you enjoy business and you want to stand out on your resume and make efficient use of your time, I strongly encourage you to look into a retail internship and who knows the possibilities you will find in just one short summer.

Brown Shoe Company Summer 2010 Internship

By Jaqueline Squillante and Katlyn Cava

The experiences we had exposure to this summer at Brown Shoe Company have truly helped us to acquire a more educated view on the retail industry, the corporate environment, and even a more mature perspective on life.

Although Brown's human resources division did a terrific job preparing all the interns for our experiences, we could have never guessed what opportunities were in store for us. After only a few days at Brown, we gained a vast respect for the people that work in the world of retail and the industry as a whole. Through our daily activities, we saw the significant amount of work that goes into producing each individual shoe and the care taken to get it to the end consumer. We also had a lot of exposure to many facets of the company and can see how they all play an integral role in its sustained success. However, our biggest take away from this company is that Brown Shoe truly values and invests in all their employees, from their senior management team to their temps and interns. Brown continues to impress us each day, with an executive team that is so open to helping, educating and mentoring each of us.

Our Brown Shoe internship greatly strengthened our time management skills by allocating multiple responsibilities. This opportunity required us to balance our daily activities and gather for meetings with people from all aspects of the corporation. In addition, we were responsible for a project that represented a pressing company issue that we researched and then presented recommendations on to senior management at the end of the summer.

After this 12-week program, we both strongly believe that maintaining a positive, optimistic approach toward your development and future, will lead you to unbelievable successes and leadership possibilities within the retailing industry. And take it from us…Brown is the perfect company to get you there.

Soraly Mercedes and Brittney Holcomb (University of Arizona) promote the launch of Madonna's new clothing line, Material Girl, in the jr's department.

Macy's Internship Leads to Career

By Soraly Mercedes

From the moment I turned 16, I was an avid shopper living at the mall. After working at a small retailer, I thought retailing wasn't for me until I learned more about Macy's.

Through its information sessions and the featured executives who spoke about their experiences, I knew that I should re-think my preconceived notions of this industry. Most of the executives I met had been with the company for more than 20 years and spoke passionately about their careers. What really caught my attention were the career advancement opportunities with Macy's.

Throughout my internship, I was challenged to mentor associates to reach their sales goals. I learned about utilizing merchandising tactics to increase sales in underperforming areas. As I progressed, I used my knowledge of the products to help other associates sell higher price point items. It was the most challenging, yet rewarding experience of my life. Working with Macy's and the amazing people I met made me understand retailing as a business. Many days I didn't feel like I was working because I actually enjoyed what I was doing. Macy's offered me to work full-time upon graduation and begin its executive development program for store management next summer. I am thrilled to be offered the chance to return to such a great company. I know that working in stores is only a stepping stone to where I want to be, working in the district offices eventually becoming a district vice president.

My internship experience changed the way I feel about this industry. I came in my first day completely unaware of whom I was and what I was capable of, but left my last day feeling accomplished and so proud of myself for everything I had done.

Nothing Cooler than being with Dick's Sporting Goods

By Karsten Farrell

I'll admit it. I'm the kid who didn't know anything about retail, but I now love the industry. This past summer, I was a merchandise intern with DICK'S Sporting Goods at their Store Support Center (fancy words for corporate office), just outside of Pittsburgh working as an Analyst in Nike Women's Athletic Apparel. I didn't know anything about working in women's clothes and being an analyst, but it proved to be a beneficial learning experience. It showed retail is an industry where you can apply all aspects of a business degree.

The SSC, located in Coraopolis, Pa, is a brand new facility that backs up to the Pittsburgh International Airport. The office is state-of-the-art. Among the amenities was the private hangar, which houses several corporate jets, a fully functional gym with the newest in work-out technology (and a full court basketball court!), a cafeteria with several food stations where meals are cooked to order, and flat screen TVs everywhere, usually tuned to ESPN or the sporting event of the week.

The quality of the building itself was reflective of the people and the internship program. I never expected such a young environment with so many motivated and high energy people. It's the innate competition between these young, rising retail stars which can attest to the growth and success of the company. The internship is designed to first get the interns acclimated with the company and their position, and then have them meet with most of the executive team. This was highlighted by lunch with Ed Stack, the company's CEO, which really helped cap off the program.

The recruiting team also made sure we enjoyed our time in Pittsburgh and orchestrated several activities including taking us out all over the town and seeing several Pirates games in the corporate box. Being a sports nut, there was nothing cooler than being in that culture all the time and dealing in sporting goods. This internship was eye-opening and the experience of a lifetime, one I'd highly recommend to anyone interested in expanding their horizons for after graduation.

Jane Kwak at the Retailing Smarter 2010 Symposium with the Sears Holdings Family.

Professional Experience with Sears Holdings

By Jane Kwak

Coming from a large university that supports the retailing industry, I have heard a lot about Sears Holdings. As marketing major, I understood that working in the retail industry would give me good insight and experience. I was looking forward to utilize the skills I learned in my classes. I was thankful to get a chance to be part of the retail team as a field intern.

I accepted the Sears Holdings retail management internship for several reasons. According to my research, Sears Holdings is the nation's fourth-largest broad line retailer with about 4,000 full-line and specialty retail stores across the nation. I liked how it was a large company that was full of diversity. What appealed to me the most was the conversation I had with the recruitment lead. We didn't have any deep conversation, but the vibe I felt made me like it. He sounded respectful, polite, approachable and friendly. This first impression made me want to be a part of this team. For me, the culture of a company is the number one determinant for me when choosing my job. It's not about the money, location, rank or the title. If I don't feel right in a company culture, I won't enjoy my work.

As a field intern, I had a chance to experience amazing activities. I was attended the retail symposium hosted by UF, networked with other interns from various retail stores, flew to Chicago for an internship conference and met Sears Holdings interns from across the nation. I interacted with senior executives, toured the corporate building, was responsible for two analysis projects, presented in front of the management team and district manager and learned about professionalism. What I have experienced this summer is hard to put in a brief outline. My mind was opened to different perspectives and ideas.

One of the best lessons I learned was that no one was going to sit and tell you how and what to work on each day. It was part of my job to resolve issues, ask questions and sometimes just be creative. If something is unclear to me, I was never afraid to ask. In the business world, there isn't one correct answer. So with the tasks I was given, I was to find the most efficient way to conduct the work. I had to be ready for changes and new opportunities. I cannot wait until I start my senior-year business classes again so I can relate what I have learned this summer to what I will be learning in class.

Variety of Careers

By Chelsea Cramasta

A visit to the Miller Center opened my eyes to retailing. I realized what great opportunity retail could be for me, so my first involvement was a retail internship with Toys "R" Us.

Toys "R" Us exceeded my expectations. I thought going into the internship that I would end up like some of my friends (who did internships elsewhere) doing busy work and becoming an extra pair of hands. Thankfully, Toys "R" Us was the opposite.

At first, I learned all of the daily activities of a store manager. Not only did I get to see what it would be like, but I actually got to be a manager! That is what was so great about the company; they wanted me to be hands on. They wanted me to experience the responsibilities and duties of a manager. They wanted to train me to work the jobs of everyone in the store. How else could I make a retail career decision unless I tried it on for size? There is a big difference between watching someone do their job, and actually doing it. When I experienced each position, it was easier for me to better understand how a store functions and how important every associate is to the success of the business.

During my internship, I was part of the team. Whenever I had an idea, I would bring it up to the manager and we would talk about it. Many of my ideas were immediately put into action! I take a lot of pride in my work, and being able to make a difference was wonderful.

Part of my training was traveling to other locations to learn about other aspects of the company. I trained at two Babies "R" Us stores. I spent a day with the district human resources manager and completed a human resources assessment at stores in Gainesville and in Ocala. I traveled to Daytona and Merritt Island with the regional asset protection manager to complete asset protection assessments. I helped open a Toys "R" Us express store and traveled to three other express stores with the market manager. I traveled to Tallahassee and spent time with the personal registry assistant to learn about her position. I spent time with the district manager who taught me how to complete an assessment of a store then challenged to complete an assessment of another store.

It was unbelievable how much I learned about the variety of careers in retail. It was an excellent experience to say the least. I recommend that anyone, with even the slightest interest, to try an internship in retail. I never thought about retail as a career, but now I am considering it for my career out of college.

Target Grows Leaders

By Rebecca Roberts

I had always loved to shop at Target and would often go shop there as a study break, but I had never seriously considered it as my future employer when I browsed the store. However, as I researched internships I fell in love with the fast, fun and friendly culture of Target as a corporation. This summer I had the opportunity to intern as a store executive, and it was a wonderful, growing, challenging and fun experience.

As an executive intern at Target, I learned the ins and outs of retail management, from helping an upset customer to conducting interviews, forecasting sales and payroll, and merchandising clearance at the end of the season. I was responsible for merchandise and people just like a manager. I was able to experience and learn every task for that role. Target's organized program greatly impacted me as leader. With Target's emphasis on personal development and feedback, I was able to identify my strengths and opportunities in order to leverage and improve them. I also learned that I really did love the things about retail that had originally appealed to me. I love the different experience of each day, hour and minute, the chance to interact with a diverse group of people, including customers and coworkers, and the function of the job being directly involved with the store and customers rather than just "working behind the scenes." Simply put, retailing is for me.

In addition to the personal development and retail management side, I had the opportunity to create and execute a project in order to improve an area of the store. Realizing the profitability of the pharmacy, I created a wellness day pharmacy event in order to drive sales and had proven successful results.

Upon graduation, I would like to move into a retail management position in order to refine my leadership skills and retail knowledge. I would like to begin a career where everyday is new and exciting. I want to work with and interact with a diverse group of people. One day I hope to take my skills acquired at a store level and use them to go into higher level leadership or a corporate position for a successful retailer.

Student Interns Jacqueline Hall, Brittany Matthews and Kathy Hall with Gator Brittany McLaughlin

Trained to Succeed

By Jacquelyn Hall

This summer we experienced an internship with Mattress Firm. The training was extensive since we were treated like college grads. We started with a two-day orientation about the mattress industry. We learned customer service and details about the products. We had two weeks of in-store training then we went to Houston to study in Ground School to learn more about the products from vendors, participating in simulations and taking exams. Who knew there was so much to learn about mattresses? Once we returned from Houston, we had to try it on for size. Each day was a new learning experience and an opportunity to practice our skills.

As an intern with Mattress Firm we were challenged with being a manager on duty which immediately gave us a lot of responsibility. Our area managers scheduled us in a variety of different markets in St. Pete, Tampa, Lakeland, Clearwater and Sarasota. Each day we were responsible for getting to the store before opening to make sure that everything was ready for the our customers. Once we were open, we assisted our store managers in the sales process. Since we are the main source of information for our customer, communication skills are vital to build value in our products and to instill trust and confidence with the Mattress Firm brand.

Following Ground School, we went on a retreat that included bowling and a full day at a water park. We went to dinner with our intern coordinators and soon thereafter, to Busch Gardens with our district manager for a fun day. We also spent a day cleaning up Fort DeSoto Park as Mattress Firm believes in giving back to the community. As an extension of our initial training, our warehouse manager took us through a day at the warehouse where we got to unload trucks of beds and even go on a few deliveries! Additionally, we traveled to Orlando for a tour of the Sealy Plant to see all that goes into the manufacturing of our products.

During the internship with Mattress Firm, we gained more than we ever could in a classroom. Everything from basic sales skills to the responsibility of an entire store, helped us to grow and gain insight into what a career in retailing entails. It was an excellent balance of work and fun that provided us with business experience and lasting memories.

Internship Leads to Career

By Nicole Damico

I would have never thought that going to speak with an advisor from the Miller Retail Center would change my life. Last December, I walked in developed a plan to take advantage of the retail opportunities available to students. Utilizing the Center's services was only the beginning. In January, I attended Meet & Greets, recommended information sessions, workshops and the Showcase. Later that spring, I was offered an intern position with Bealls Department Stores.

Bealls Department Store was my preferred destination because the company culture was obvious through the recruiters' personalities. The values of the employees, from the CEO to the associates, are very similar: They are practical, yet professional, and make each day as exciting and enjoyable as the one before. The Bealls culture is welcoming and respectful. The company focuses on each employee as an individual.

During my internship, I interacted with associates, managers and customers to learn and develop my store knowledge. I also partnered with another UF intern to complete a challenging project. To do this, we conducted surveys, researched departments and tracked sales. The project required hours of dedication and frequent communication with buyers and managers. During the last week of our internship, we presented our results to corporate executives.

The last day of my internship, my district manager and store manager brought me into the manager's office, and thanked me for providing them with new techniques and compelling research results that will be implemented through the entire company. Then, I was handed an envelope. As I opened it (not knowing what to expect), I read the words: We would like to offer you an Area Manager's position. I was so happy that I thanked them a thousand times. Without a doubt, I accepted. I am graduating in April, and will be starting my new career in June with Bealls!

It's remarkable to think that this all became possible because I took advantage of all the opportunities the Center offers. It started with their advising and it ended with a job offer. I couldn't thank the Miller Retail Center enough for this influential experience.

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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