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 5 S.T.E.P.S. to Effective Customer Service

By Kristine Straker

Simplicity: A simple smile or "How are you?" can go a long way. Great customer service is simple and genuine!

Trust: You want to stay inside your customer's circle of trust. Companies like Johnson & Johnson, Proctor & Gamble and American Express do a great job at this!

Experience: Create a unique experience and positive environment for your customer!

Personalized: Make your customer feel special through personalization. Mattress Firm writes handwritten thank you notes to their customers!

Surprise and Delight: Wow your customer with something they did not expect and go beyond your expected duties!

Good customer service is vital to the success of every retail company; it is the foundation of any business. Through excellent customer service you can create personalized customer experiences, secure customer loyalty and generate profits. By keeping these five easy steps in mind, you too can deliver effective customer service!

It's All About the Customer at The Home Depot

By Jonathan Mayen

Kevin Scott, Senior Vice President Merchandising Services at The Home Depot, gave a presentation on The Hope Depot's merchandising strategy on a recent visit to the University of Florida.

Scott discussed how The Home Depot focuses resources on research and development and consumer demographics. The Home Depot is learning how changes in customer behavior can impact business, and this knowledge helps the company meet customer expectations. For example, baby boomers remain the largest segment in The Home Depot's market share followed by Generation Y. As part of the research and development, The Home Depot can focus on simplicity by making complex projects more efficient to assemble and complete which is desirable by the consumer. The Home Depot also adjusts merchandise as it finds innovative ways to place items close to one another for home improvement projects. The goal is to offer customers the convenience to find what they need quickly, easily and affordably.

In addition, The Home Depot focuses on innovation by demanding new and fresh ideas for products that fit their customer's needs. Furthermore, The Home Depot makes sure all of its resources are aligned to engage customers through its store experience and online media. The Home Depot merges technology to remain relevant and cater to its customers in efficient ways. One of the challenges The Home Depot faces is creating a seamless multi-channel experience across all touch points as customers want instantaneous satisfaction and the ability to buy items they cannot buy anywhere else. The Home Depot is very careful about taking good care of customers whether it is through the in-store experience or through e-commerce. Part of the company's strategy is to resolve problems with social media, and to understand what is important to customers. Negative comments by customers in social media can really hurt a business and ultimately profit margins. Therefore, The Home Depot is investing in social media to decrease customer dissatisfaction and give customers the ability to connect and engage on all levels of the value chain.

Mr. Scott said that The Home Depot is about keeping a solid position in the marketplace and maintaining good prices. Mr. Scott has held several positions throughout his career at The Home Depot beginning with a sales associate. Currently, he is responsible for the execution of merchandising activities in the U.S. by leading several merchandising teams throughout the company.

The Power of Influence

By Jonathan Mayen

The Sears Holdings Retail Management Seminar is designed to inform students about the retail industry and to dispel myths about retailing careers through weekly presentations by executives in the industry.

After giving a brief introduction on the success their company has enjoyed after facing serious obstacles in 2005, they began speaking about the intangible factors of a job such as the people you will be working with (as well as the people you will be working for) and the office environment. Smith compared hating your boss to having a class you were extremely excited about and then discovering you can't stand your professor; in both situations, you are sure to be miserable. Remember, "People don't work for companies; they work for people." Smith and Baczynski suggested going to as many events as you can on campus to try to evaluate what the people and culture of the company are like and if they align with what you are looking for.

Next, they delved into some specifics such as compensation, benefits, and work/life balance. The job might seem perfect, but will you be able to pay your bills? Also, will you be paid overtime or do you have a set salary? When you will be eligible for a raise in your salary is also something to consider. You might want to ask people who are in the job you want what their typical week looks like so you know what to expect. The speakers reminded us to think of long-term things too such as 401(k), medical/dental benefits, and flexibility for appointments or personal commitments. Currently, many jobs have "portability" meaning that you go in to work in the office a few days a week then the rest you work from home. Do you work better alone or with the camaraderie of working amongst your colleagues in an office atmosphere?

One must also consider the future of the company they are thinking of joining. What challenges will the company be facing in the years to come, and is the company prepared to meet them? Do you personally prefer working for local companies, regional companies, national companies, or global companies? Each comes with its own advantages and disadvantages; it is up to you to determine which best fits your needs. Among other key things to contemplate, think about if you will have the chance to interact with senior leaders and if you will have many duties or just a few specialized tasks? One must evaluate the opportunities there are to advance in the company and achieve one's career goals.

Matt Smith and Jane Baczynski presented us with frank insight into what really matters when you are offered a job. The UF Retail Society was fortunate to have their expertise on what steps to take when you are contemplating accepting job offers. Toys "R" Us is a phenomenal company that shared their insight with us!

Consultant Shares Observations in the World of Retailing

By Jennifer Cephus and Alison Clark

In November, the Retail Seminar class welcomed Cynthia Cohen, Founder and President of Strategic Mindshare.

Cohen explained how important branding is and how the emergence of social media has allowed businesses to achieve new branding heights. Social media is a growing marketing tool that many companies are creating positions for. Cohen stated that our generation has such an advantage because of our knowledge and experience with social media.

The Internet has impacted the way consumers shop by allowing them to be able to research more, competitively shop and share their opinions with their followers. Cohen stated consumers now "research first and buy second." Because of the new dynamic of business-to-consumer communication, new technologies have developed such as QR codes. Because consumers are buying more online, many businesses have incorporated initiatives to build their online presence. Cohen predicted mobile shopping and mobile payments to be the next big trends.

Because of the downturn of the economy and the decrease in consumer confidence, it's vital for businesses to see the new consumer trends and capitalize on them. For example, many companies opened up much earlier on Black Friday this year to be able to lure shoppers into their stores before their competitors.

With the ability to have access to a company overseas through the Internet, globalization has become a rising trend. Retailers are now able to design a product in one country, manufacture it in another and market it to countries all around the world. Brands such as Jack Wills, H&M, and Fresh & Easy have been able to benefit from this.

Retailers are increasingly becoming more experiential in the store with demonstrations and in-store events such as utilizing food trucks to generate traffic and creating "Pop-Up stores." Many retailers are encouraging food trucks to sit outside of their stores to increase traffic flow in their stores. In addition, retailers are opening up "Pop-Up stores," which are mini-stores that a business rents out for a short amount of time. Retailers are able to test a new market, launch a new product line, or expand their retail business with lower capital and start-up costs.

Pathways to Retail Success: Geoff Green

The Miller Center welcomed Geoff Green, Vice President of Talent & Acquisitions at The Brown Shoe Company.

Green had an interesting transition into Brown Shoe. He began as a store manager, but moved into human resources on the advice of the company's Vice President.. Green began looking into the position and determined that it was a great fit. After Green began working in recruiting, he knew it was something that he loved because of the responsibilities and the constant connections that he makes with people.

Green then went on to give information on what Brown Shoe is, and what they do that makes them such a distinguished company.

Headquartered in St. Louis, Brown Shoe is both a retailer and a wholesaler. Famous Footwear is its biggest revenue generator, though Naturalizer is the most recognized brand. What makes Brown Shoe so unique is that it has recognizable brands ranging from Wal-Mart, Payless, and Target, to Nordstrom and Vera Wang. Their presence in malls around America is substantial, averaging six or seven stores in each mall. Brown Shoe aims to not only leave an impact in America, but abroad as well. They have achieved this with their growing presence in Asia.

A big opportunity that Brown Shoe offers potential candidates is the ACT Program, designed to train college graduates to lead the organization. It is a six-step program designed to give students a wide array of experience from managing on the store level to working with a senior level mentor. While in the program, Brown Shoe will fully fund the students' MBA education, making this a well sought after program for many students. Brown Shoe is very selective, but it looks for a high GPA, leadership, organizational involvement and potential for growth.

Brown Shoe also offers an internship program in their St. Louis office for current undergraduate students.

Pathways to Retail Success: Pam Tope

The purpose of the Pathways to Retail Success Webinar Series is to expose students to a wide range of companies that they might not consider for retail opportunities,, show an array of careers and pathways to success in retail and learn the different ways executives have reached their career goals.

Pam Tope, Florida regional president for Verizon Wireless, shared how when she started a career in telecommunications 25 years ago, no one thought a telephone company would entertain a retail environment. She challenged students to think of where their careers can be 25 years from now as the retail industry expands. Verizon Wireless is the largest wireless provider in the US. The company creates quite a bit of revenue since its product has a service component so it possesses a continuous revenue stream. With 21 regions within the company, Ms. Tope is responsible for $3 billion in revenue – a huge responsibility. She is also responsible for 4,000 employees.

There are 100 company-owned stores in Florida (with 400-500 additional distribution sites) that range from free standing, store within a store, to kiosk in malls. They distribute Apple and Google Android, but they are more than just the products. They are second only to iTunes for music purchases, movies, Disney applications, Pandora Radio, etc. If you didn't think it was a complex retail product before, you have been pleasantly surprised. The biggest challenge she has in her job is trying to make it simple and easy to conduct this complex business.

When customers walk into a Verizon Wireless store, they seek to network. They expect service 24 hours a day even during disasters. Knowing this, Verizon Wireless works to be the best in service, but Tope said this isn't enough. The company focuses on innovation and works to overcome just being a transport in wireless service; they want to add value to the service. This helps them to differentiate as the competition is huge. The customer experience is about making a complex business simple and reliable.

She is headquartered in Tampa and has full responsibility for profit and loss for her region. Ms. Tope was asked how she has been able to manage such a diverse set of functions. She explained that she has been with the company for 24 years. Not all of that time was she mobile. Many times, she was unable to advance because of this. She often took lateral positions or demotions so she could avoid a move. Twice she was told her job was being eliminated and she faced layoff. These experiences taught her that she was in control of her attitude and her attitude was to go back to work and take any position available. This approach trained her in a large variety of positions within the company without knowing all of which would become vital in her upward mobility. She suggests being open to change as early in your career as possible. Get a variety of experience so you can move forward making good decisions for the business.

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!


College Info

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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