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:


Record Year for Miller Center

Each year the David F. Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research sponsors retail internships that occur throughout the U.S. This year, 220 Gators landed positions in retailing making this the most successful retail internship program to date! Most interns worked in management training programs and many in corporate positions. Almost 50 retailers participated helping students to better understand the business. Throughout the internship, students communicated with the Center though e-mails, calls and site visits. During the site visits, students discussed training, skill development and future retail plans. The internship helps students to understand themselves and the industry so they can make better career decisions upon graduation.

"Students never return from a retail internship saying they hated it", said Cecilia Schulz, director of student programs for the Miller Center. "They return from the internship loving the position, the company or both."


Applying Classroom Learning to the Store

By Jia Lin

I decided to intern at Walgreens this summer because of its reputation as a leader in pharmaceutical retail, and because of the various opportunities within the company. My internship surpassed what I initially expected. What sets the Walgreens Business Management Internship apart from other internships is its training program. Interns learn from the bottom up. During the first five weeks of the internship, I learned to run a register and worked in the cosmetics, photo and pharmacy departments. The training was effective because my supervisors and co-workers all contributed to teaching and helping me to understand how to use the store's resources and perform department-related duties. During the rest of the internship, I was able to apply the knowledge gained from the initial training to successfully act in a managerial position. With the store manager as my mentor and an open-door policy, I was able to work in an educational and supportive environment.

A typical day of working as a management trainee intern begins with checking the funds in the store's safe. Throughout my shift, I am responsible for the money in the safe, provide change to registers and pick up cash from them. I also check in vendors, perform exchanges and refunds, provide rain checks for out-of-stock merchandises, assist in both customer and employee inquiries and work in different departments as needed. My main responsibilities revolve around maintaining a smooth operation, including organizing departments, creating displays, aiding to unload deliveries and stocking merchandise.

I gained valuable retail knowledge at Walgreens as I was able to apply and connect what I learned in class to the duties performed in the store. For instance, when my store ordered UF/Gator merchandise, we considered and computed various factors before we decided which products, and in what quantity would be the best for our store. Additionally, I gained knowledge and skills from seeing first-hand how certain changes directly affect sales from working together with teammates to meet goals, and from working on assigned projects. Examples of some of the projects I completed are a mystery shopping project (aimed to compare customer service between Walgreens and its competitors), a SWAT analysis project of the specific Walgreens in which I worked, and a project aimed to improve sales and organizations of the stationary department. One of my favorite experiences during this internship was when I had the opportunity to shadow the district supervisors. I spent a day with each of three district supervisors, which allowed me to see the company's goals and functions from a corporate perspective. The knowledge I gained from all these experiences helped me to better understand Walgreens' store operations and retailing as a business.


Company on a Mission (Statement)!

By Jennifer Xie

"To inspire people to feel good and live better…Feet First!" - Brown Shoe Company [Mission Statement]

Last year, Brown Shoe began a journey in search of a mission that would connect and guide the leaders, associates, businesses and brands of our company. As we evolve as a company, we want to make sure that everyone is on the same page with what Brown Shoe is about. Our executive team came up with a new mission, vision, and company values to strategically move our company forward. My summer internship project was to work with our business leaders and associates from all parts of our organization to define the company values. Values are the foundation of a company as they support the company mission and vision. They define who we are today and who we will be in the future.

During my internship, I learned more about the footwear industry and developed better management and leadership skills. Not only did Brown Shoe fly me to Orlando for the Retail Smarter Conference, they also sent me to New York and California for my project. I had the opportunity to speak with our associates from all around the globe about our company values. My partner and I conducted focus groups, interviews, and various special events to engage our associates. Looking back at my summer experience, I still cannot believe how blessed I was for Brown Shoe to entrust me with such a big project. Brown Shoe has invested a lot of time, effort and trust in me. Brown Shoe empowered me to grow personally and professionally. At Brown Shoe, we always stay true to our beliefs: "How much business we do is just as important as how we do business."


Experiencing Success at Firestone

By Trent Taucher

"Firestone? The tire place?Why that, Trent?!" This was the question I received from a lot of my friends and family when I chose to do my internship with Firestone Complete Auto Care this past summer.

I soon realized that this company was so much more than a tire place; it was a great place to learn many retail management skills vital to success in the retail world. I was impressed immediately when the company flew me and numerous other interns throughout the southeast zone to Atlanta for an all-expenses paid week of extensive training and fun. Learning all about the automotive industry, (which I had previously known nothing about) was challenging but exciting, because I could see my progression and confidence grow every day as I learned more and more about the POS system, diagnosing cars, and how every part in a vehicle operates. During my internship experience, I designed a sales event that increased total store sales from the prior year by 77 percent, and on a weekly basis constructed elaborate tire displays in the front of the building to boost sales and brand recognition. In July, all of the interns were flown to Chicago for leadership training and a tour of the corporate office. During this time, we were split into teams and given the assignment to create a presentation that would be presented to many influential executives of the company at the end of the visit. The thing that impressed me the most from this experience was the undivided attention the interns received from everyone in the company; we were treated with respect and they truly valued our opinions about the company, and acted on some of the ideas generated. At the end of my internship, I was even given the opportunity to work a grand opening of a new store in Apollo Beach, Fla. I enjoyed my experience and I cannot express enough gratitude for all this company did for me. I would recommend this internship to anyone!


Real Life Projects at The Home Depot

By Alysse Rothbaum

My internship with The Home Depot has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. This summer I was on the Brand Management team working specifically with private brands.

Unlike other companies, The Home Depot gives you real projects and big responsibilities. I worked on a Private Brand Vendor Guide that will tell vendors everything they need to know about doing business with The Home Depot. This guide is the first of its kind and my efforts will have a big impact on this company's relationships with its vendors. The new processes I formed will make suppliers more efficient and in turn save The Home Depot millions of dollars as they increase the awareness and sales of their private brands. I was in charge of putting together the covers of owner's manuals for each of the seven private brands. My goal was to ensure consistency throughout each brand while making sure all of the necessary information for both the suppliers and customers was included. I also assisted the brand team form the overall image for three of their brands. As an undergraduate, I majored in Marketing, so it was especially exciting for me to see how a brand is developed from beginning ideas to the sales floor.

I reported to a manager along with a mentor from a different department to help guide me throughout this internship. The Home Depot put together intern networking events that gave us a chance to get to know executives and interns from other divisions. I've had the opportunity to meet with not only the CEO, but also the CIO, CFO and CMO. Their advice was beneficial to me as I try to establish my career path. I've had three internships throughout college and have never received this much exposure to an Executive Leadership Team.

I've also had the pleasure of meeting with a number of Directors and Executive Vice Presidents that have given me helpful guidance for my future. Throughout the summer I presented my projects and accomplishments to senior management and received helpful feedback. This internship was very rewarding as I feel that I made a real impact on a multi-billion dollar corporation.

This experience is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and I highly recommend that students consider an internship with The Home Depot next summer.

Go Gators!


Part of the Big Team at Sears

By Gloria Docilait

I am a senior majoring in marketing, and I interned with Sears this past summer. In 10 weeks, I learned operations of a major business, and experienced what it feels like to work full-time in the retail world.

I was fortunate to have been placed at the Sears outlet at Gainesville's Oaks Mall where I worked with general store manager, Allen Crabtree as well as many wonderful assistant managers. What set my internship experience apart from others was the people I worked with everyday were welcoming and positive. My job consisted of rotating throughout various departments to experience first-hand the entire brick-and-mortar location. This gave me the opportunity to work with all managers for about two weeks and learn about their responsibilities.

As an intern, I was responsible for helping increase awareness about the company's reward program. Show Your Way Rewards (SYWR) is a customer loyalty program that was created in April of 2009. This program is designed to give customers a reason to continuously shop at Sears and in return, they receive 1 percent back on every purchase. This project required me to ask employees and customers their opinion on why the program works and what improvements could be made. The response was very helpful and I was able to use a few ideas for my presentation at the end of the internship. I made suggestions on how to include members who didn't have a mobile phone or an e-mail address, but are consistent shoppers at Sears.

The highlight of my internship was an all-expense paid trip to Chicagoto visit the corporate office of Sears Holdings Co., for the internship conference. This was a two-day, action-packed event which was filled with presentations given by the corporate executives in the company like Lou D' Ambrosio, Sears' newest Chief Executive Officer. I was excited to hear about the new and exciting concepts and merchandise soon to be introduced to Sears and K-mart.


Gator Learns Sales from the Best

By Patrick Sheehan

It was already proving to be a case of the Mondays at my store. I had just finished writing up the greatest amount of sales in my short retail career, and now I hadn't seen a single customer for several hours on this Monday afternoon.

A customer walks in saying that another company had offered him an outstanding deal on a mattress he was looking at, and he was just reassuring himself that no one was going to be able to match that price. I show him the mattress that he was interested in, and sure enough the other company was offering a great deal. I spent over an hour and a half building a rapport with him. Surprisingly, we were both Florida Gators and talked about Gator Football for a good amount of time. I gave him an exceptional deal matching the competitor's offer, and said he'd think about it. An hour later he calls back saying that we might have a deal. He was on the other line with the other company who was willing to offer free delivery, the low price, and 12-month financing. After a while of negotiation, he settles on $25 delivery, the low price, and six months financing with me. As a summer intern with not even two months of experience, I had out-negotiated one of the biggest companies in the country. It was a day like this when I was proud to have accepted my internship offer with Mattress Firm.

I received an e-mail from the Miller Center for Retailing about the opportunity to work with Mattress Firm as a Regional Sales Management intern, and I was instantly attracted because sales has always been a part of my life. My father was VP of Sales for a company in New York, and like every child I wanted to be just like my dad. I absolutely loved the fast-paced and competitive nature of sports I played while growing up, and I discovered that sales was no different. Mattress Firm is pretty much the Callaway of the Mattress industry; one of the best companies of their trade. So once I took these facts into consideration, I applied for this opportunity in a heartbeat.

I gained a ton of experience and insight into the retail industry with this internship. I was flown to Houston for a week for managerial training school. It was in this "Ground School," and day-to-day experience that I learned how to build value in a product, top down sell, overcome objections, negotiate properly, and always ask for the sale. On several other occasions I was flown to Houston to give presentations to corporate members about competitive analysis and a factual presentation about sleep and how it plays a vital role in fitness. In addition to these trips, I was able to attend a two-day retail symposium in Orlando. The single most important lesson I gained from all of this, however, was the constantly fluctuating environment of retail. There will be good days, great days, and absolutely terrible days; in fact there are some days when you go home and question your ability to sell. Yet you must be able to wake up every morning with a positive mental attitude that that day will be your best day yet.

This internship completely changed my perspective of the retail industry. I initially walked in with the mindset that there wasn't a lot to be learned and that the work would be a piece of cake; boy was I wrong. In fact, there would be some days when I would come home from work physically and mentally exhausted from both serving customers and learning so much information at the same time. Since I'm only a sophomore here at UF, and the other interns were all graduating seniors, I had to learn all of these concepts in sales at a condensed rate, since I was at a disadvantage from an educational standpoint. In regards to Mattress Firm's educational process, I was extremely impressed with how much time and preparation Mattress Firm invests in its employees to ensure success in the future.

In conclusion, if I had to choose whether or not to do this internship again, I would absolutely go ahead and do it. It was extremely time consuming and at times exhausting, yet highly worth it in the end. It is because of this wonderful opportunity that I have walked away with completely improved communication skills, people skills, and sales skills, which have all played a role in my personal development. I'd absolutely recommend anyone interested in sales or management to take this internship opportunity, and to approach it with an open mind, a hard stomach, determination, and an ability to tolerate copious amounts of caffeine.


Intern Confirms Career Choice

By Anna Van Dingstee

I have worked in retail for several years, but had never considered it for a career until I stumbled upon a retail internship at a retail reception this past spring. I am a buying intern with Beall's Department Stores.

Beall's is a relatively small, family-owned company and has provided me with an internship experience different than many others. By working in a small company, the buyers at Beall's assume many responsibilities that buyers at larger retailers do not, and I believe I have learned a great deal more working for Beall's than I would have at other companies.

Coming into this internship, I knew little about the responsibilities and daily tasks required of a buyer and how they relate to advertising, e-commerce and media buying. I have become comfortable performing daily tasks such as writing and entering purchase orders, communicating with vendors, reviewing sales reports, as well as organizing and submitting samples. I have been able to put to use the concepts I have learned in my business classes at the University of Florida, specifically those dealing with relationship building with vendors. Beall's has been extremely beneficial to my learning and growing in this internship.

Apart from my responsibilities in the buying office, Beall's offers a challenging project for its interns. This project requires us to develop an updated business plan for our emerging stores which are those that have a younger, more fashion-forward customer. Beall's has typically catered to an older, resort style woman. They are making changes in inventory and marketing, and they are utilizing interns for new ideas. Our challenge is to innovate outside the box and create an exciting new business plan. This project encourages us to think creatively about the retailing industry and where Beall's fits, as well as working as a team with the other interns, buyers, planners and members of the marketing team. Bottom line is it's fun!

Interning with Beall's has provided me with an experience in a corporate retail environment in which I have learned more than I could have imagined. I had the opportunity to develop skills and learn business strategies that are imperative to a career as a retail buyer. Now I am more comfortable with the decision I have made to pursue a career in retail which has given me peace of mind as I go into my senior year.


Variety of Learning Opportunities with Target

By Jonathan Mayen

My name is Jonathan Mayen and I am a fourth-year ISOM/Management major student in the Warrington College of Business Administration. I've always enjoyed working in retail and I have an interest in working as an executive with a retail company.

I was hired by Target to be a store executive intern during the summer in Miami. My internship set me apart from others by giving me so much experience with store operations, guest relations, leadership development and networking opportunities. My internship took place in a store with the highest volume in sales throughout the district and in the company. This gave me the chance to think on my feet and make the right decisions for the business. Target cares about its employees because it offers all the tools and resources to develop as an effective leader within the store and throughout your career.

I considered retailing for my summer internship because I felt it was the right place to start my career especially since the industry offers training in different areas like merchandising and human resources, logistics and management. While with Target, I learned that you must have a passion for retail to enjoy the working environment and also possess an assertive attitude in order to lead and manage different people. While interning, I had numerous amounts of leadership opportunities in the store. For example, I assisted the manager on duty with daily operations and at times, I had to manage employees and make sure daily priorities were completed. Other leadership opportunities included internship training sessions, executive meetings and networking events.

The hardest part of my internship was working the overnight shift in the logistics work center. I worked two nights in a row from 10 pm to 8 am unloading the truck and merchandising the shelves. It was a hard task, but I learned to respect those that do it nightly. Also, I understand the importance of the replenishment process and how it can make an impact on sales.

Retail is a fun industry with an ever-changing work environment. The internship exposed me to new experiences that I would have not been able to experience in college such as teamwork, confidence building and leadership opportunities. I met a new team then immediately managed them, coached a team member for low performance, and even participated in executive meetings. Throughout the internship, I worked on a project about the customer service experience at five area Target stores. I counted how many team members ask the customer whether they can help find a product. I compared the service reports for the week with my data and discovered that our service needed coaching. I researched customer service practices of our competitors and then offered ways in which our local stores can take our service to the next level. My goal was to demonstrate that great guest service yields a great experience and increased sales at a Target store. It was interesting for me to see how great customer service can make a big impact on guest experience and the bottom line.


Gators Sporting in Steel City

By Chelsea Schaffer

This summer, Lainie Rosemond and I had the incredible opportunity to intern at Dick's Sporting Goods. Prior to venturing to Pittsburgh for a 12-week internship program, we had no idea what to expect, but set our expectations high knowing we would be working for a Fortune 500 company. Not only did Dick's meet our expectations, it passed them with flying colors.

Both Lainie and I worked as buying interns in Athletic Apparel: Lainie with Men's Under Armour and I with Youth Athletic Apparel. Each of us worked day in and day out with the buyers in our departments, and the rest of the Athletic Apparel team. One of the best parts of the buying industry is there is no daily routine. Each day we were challenged to keep up and lead in the ever-changing retail business. Over the duration of our three-month program, we met with vendors from Under Armour, Nike, Adidas, Soffee, and Reebok, assisted in creating and ordering the Spring 2012 Fashion Line, and completed projects to help increase sales in each of our departments. We had the great opportunity to present the findings of our projects to our fellow interns, working team, vice presidents, and many others from the Store Support Center, our corporate office.

Aside from our buying positions, the University Relations Team set up various appointments and adventures to enhance or time spent in Pittsburgh. One of the highlights was meeting with Dick's executives including the President/COO, Executive Vice President, Global Merchandising and Division President – Golf Galaxy, Senior Vice Presidents, and lunch with Chairman and CEO, Ed Stack. Not only did they further our internship in the office, but they introduced us to everything Pittsburgh had to offer. We attended a Pirates baseball game in the company box, kayaked down the river surrounding the city, bowled at a local alley, and teed up at Scally's Par Three course.

The transition both into the Dick's Sporting Goods company culture and the Steel City has been seamless and that is due to great work by the University Relations Team for making a wonderfully structured program. We enjoyed our summer immensely and look forward to what the future has in store for us. Thank you, Dick's Sporting Goods for everything!


Intern Gained Confidence with Sam's Clubs

By Jennifer Cephus

"Why Sam's?" is the question that I have been asked constantly since the beginning of my summer internship with Sam's Club. Though it may not be good to answer a question with a question, I always reply with "What better way to get real life experience than through working with the world's number one retailer?" In all honesty, my management internship with Sam's Club has been one of the greatest experiences in my lifetime and definitely the highlight of my summer.

Prior to Sam's Club, the "experience" portion of my resume was bare. I've never had a job before, so I had no idea what to expect from this internship except for an opportunity to learn about retail and to grow as an individual. Now looking back, Sam's Club has definitely exceeded my expectations. The single greatest moment during my internship was when I had the opportunity to interview prospective associates. It is a completely different experience sitting in an interview from the interviewer's side, but it was also very eye-opening to see what employers really look for in associates. I've found that there is truth behind the sayings "employers look at your resume for about five seconds" and "first impressions are everything." Not only was I able to offer deserving candidates a job opportunity, I took away so much more from that than what I imagined initially; I was able to develop my own personal interview skills for the future.

Aside from the interviews, I can truly say that I am a changed young lady. During my internship with Sam's Club, I;

  • Have been able to put management principles that I learned in class to real life situations
  • Learned to read reports and make plans to increase numbers on them
  • Developed my business management and customer service skills
  • Have become close to an entire new network of business professionals

I am more confident in making decisions, more independent and responsible, and I've learned to appreciate every opportunity and give back whenever possible. These are life lessons that, unfortunately, cannot be taught in a class or book. Whether Sam's Club is, or isn't for you, I strongly encourage you (if you have not already) to actively seek an internship. You'll be amazed by all of the opportunities that await you.


The Team Made all of the Difference

By Pamela Gordon

One of the reasons I chose jcpenney was because of the exposure to the company and its culture I would receive during the internship. I knew that when I arrived at the store, I would be busy with anything except getting coffee and lunch orders

I spent each week in different departments learning about the customer and how to display the merchandise to attract and capture sales. I learned about the merchandise and how having a mix of private, national and exclusive brands sets jcpenney apart from competitors. From competitive shopping, I saw that jcpenney's Customer First program really helps the company to become the preferred shopping destination. Not only is jcpenney concerned about its customer, they also are interested in its associates. I liked how the healthy attitude of my store manager helped the positive attitude of the store. The teamwork displayed by the managers and supervisors created an environment of support and consideration. All departments, sales support and selling associates worked together to form a great synergy. One of the reasons I chose retailing as my internship was because of how much one can learn from the industry. Consumerism drives the economy and what better way to learn about the behavior than interning in a retail store? This summer has been one of constant learning. I have learned a lot about merchandising, budgeting, advertising events, customer service and HR. Oddly enough, I also learned a lot about myself. Now, I am better able to identify my strengths and opportunities and where I want my career to go. At jcpenney, I never experienced the same day twice. The constant change helped me to look forward at what is ahead for jcpenney. ever possible. These are life lessons that, unfortunately, cannot be taught in a class or book. Whether Sam's Club is, or isn't for you, I strongly encourage you (if you have not already) to actively seek an internship. You'll be amazed by all of the opportunities that await you.

Driving sales at Macy's

By David Magnotta

I admit it. Until this summer, I never considered retail as a career. To me, it was only fashion, folding and matching clothes. I have no interest in any of this! That all changed the summer I spent with Macy's.

After speaking with Macy's recruiter at the Career Showcase, I decided to give it a try. From my first day, all of my expectations were surpassed. I was attending management huddles, included in planning for our corporate visit, helping on the selling floor, meeting the team and more…all before lunch!

My intern project was to pilot a new company-wide initiative called "MyProduct." I introduced a binder, which allowed Macy's to provide more personalized product knowledge, to associates in the home store and presented my findings to the executives including the store manager. In addition to my project, I helped drive sales in the $46 million store and my $4 million department. What is exciting is I contributed to meeting our stretch goals for both months and almost met our season stretch goal, despite the lack of early season results. In addition to learning how to drive sales, I learned how to coach and manage associates from all age groups and experience levels. I found myself giving fast feedback, redirection, and doing scorecard conversations more comfortably than I ever imagined!

I had an opportunity to attend an Intern Summit in Houston.! There, I met other interns, completed a community service project, met with regional executives, and had a ton of fun! The summit was something I never expected and will never forget. In addition to this experience, I met with other district and regional executives, and even had the chance to meet the President of Stores on my third day! In retail, there is never a dull moment or a repetitive day. Macy's became even more attractive to me when I understood how much they are committed to developing me as a person; making sure I understood what I was doing; realizing how open they are and how everyone will bend over backwards to help me. Macy's is committed to giving back through charity events, community service, and even shopping passes for charity donations. The magic of Macy's is the energy of the associates, the endless opportunities they offer, the unforgettable experience working with them provides, and the exceptional service every person receives! I hope to continue my career with Macy's and become a part of their family as I felt at home in only eight short weeks. There is not enough space to explain everything I learned or how it personally changed me. I wouldn't trade this experience for anything!


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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