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!

January: Issue 1, 2013

In this issue:


Retailing is Opportunity

The Ray Greenly Scholarship is awarded annually to a future retail leader who has demonstrated leadership while studying at the University of Florida. This year, the Ray Greenly Scholarship was awarded to David Magnotta, an UF major who graduates in May 2013. What follows is an essay he submitted to the National Retail Federation (NRF) discussing his thoughts about the industry. Congratulations, David!

Students are always encouraged to break the mold and follow their true passions and talents. When people find out that I am an Accounting major at the University of Florida, they are immediately surprised by my attendance at retail recruiting events. The common stereotype of loving numbers and wanting to work for a large firm does not describe what I am looking for in a career or what my passions are. As an Accounting major, I thought phrases like "High Upward Mobility, Fast Paced, Customer Service, Supportive, Results Driven, Professional Growth Opportunities, and Teamwork" were only buzz words used by firms to attract talent at career fairs. I never imagined that I would ever be able to find an industry that would turn these ideas into tangible pathways and emotions for myself, and would have never thought that retail was their common denominator. Like most students, I only saw the consumer side of the business which included cashiers, folding clothes, putting outfits together, and a career that required knowledge of the fashion industry, something that I still am not an expert by any means in. Over the past two summers I've had the great opportunity to work with one of the most recognized names in the retail industry, Macy's, Inc., as a Store Management Intern, in my home state of Texas. I still remember approaching their table at the Fall 2010 Showcase, speaking with their team, and having my eyes opened to what would be two of the most fast paced, educational, exciting, and supportive summers of my life. After meeting with their executives on campus and accepting the initial offer, I could have never imagined that it would have led me to have found my future career at such an early stage.

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Unlike other accountants, I believe that a company's largest assets are not on a balance sheet, but are the people driving those results. Throughout my internship, I had the opportunity to dive into the business behind the aisles and immediately fell in love with it all. Not only did I learn more than I ever imagined about Ladies Shoes and Ladies Ready to Wear, my home departments, but I learned invaluable lessons from everyone I encountered. The aisles of retail are not filled with only merchandise, but they are oozing with opportunity in Operations, Human Resources, Finance, Management, and so many other fields! I was able to strengthen my management and coaching skills with real world experience in leading a team of all ages to achieve daily, weekly, and monthly goals, but more importantly, I got to develop them into the talented workforce I knew they were. I was able to partner with the Merchandising Team, strengthen my analytical skills with daily reports, better understand inventory audits, and improve my critical thinking through real world business examples on our floor every day. Not to mention the opportunity to interact with Customers, handle conflict, learn the art of Loss Prevention, and see the sacrifices necessary to successfully run a multi-million dollar department and store.

Retailing is not about what you see in the store, but about the entire process of an idea for a product, the supply chain involved, and the servicing of the customer that adds value to the product. While it sounds like a textbook definition, this is what retail means to me and what I was able to witness first hand. As I prepare to graduate from UF in May, I can confidently walk away knowing that I have the skills to succeed in the workplace. However, I know this came from my work experience in retail, at least as much as my academic work. I am a firm believer that what you do outside the classroom prepares you better than anything else, and have learned more than I ever dreamed of in just 16 weeks of working with a retailer.

Retailing can be defied in one word: opportunity. I am looking forward to starting my career in retail and am prepared to make the sacrifices necessary to grow both personally and professionally. There is no other industry that will provide me the same opportunities or an environment where I feel as comfortable. Retailing is how I plan to build my future career and I can't wait to see where it takes me next or how it will continue to evolve.


Interns Offer Helpful Advice

By Zack Chang

The Retail Society held an internship panel in November featuring students who had previously interned at JC Penney, Macy's, Sears and AT&T. Each participant described their internship position and how they were able to land the position. All of the interns involved obtained their internship by first attending the Career Showcase followed by interviews.

Retail Society members asked about the surprises interns faced and the challenges they had to overcome. Interns said they were surprised at the intensity of the retail training programs and how much responsibility they had to manage. No one expected to learn as much as they did, manage other associates and make decisions that impacted the bottom line…as interns!

The interns advised that if you want to move up in a company you'll probably have to start at the store level.


Students Tour Local Toys"R"Us

By Jennie Clark

On October 11th, the local Gainesville Toys R Us hosted and guided the University of Florida Retail Society on a fun and informational store tour.

The Retail Society is a student organization that focuses on bringing students together with a common interest in working for retail. The students all hope to get retail internships and to pursue careers in the retail industry after graduation.

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A group of about 30 students came out for a tour of one of the most fun retailers in the world! Students were split up into three groups. The tour lasted an hour and a local and experienced Toys R Us manager led each student group. Each manager was very knowledgeable about the company, store operations and management. Many students had numerous questions about several new products and how they constantly update their visual merchandise.

The managers showed the students a new line featured in their baby section. Toys R Us has recently partnered with supermodel Heidi Klum in her creation of 'Truly Scrumptious' which features bedding, strollers, clothing and much more. Babies R Us carries the full line, but most Toys R Us stores have a smaller collection of the merchandise. The line is practical, functional and fashionable and provides an exciting celebrity designed line to the masses. Some of the students loved the clothes so much they wanted to try them on for fun!

The managers showed us popular toys and also spoke about their very successful private brand toys. Toys R Us makes and designs its own toys and sells them strictly through its retail stores. The Toys R Us private brand allows the retailer to increase merchandise and make more of a profit.

Many students asked about Toys R Us' acquisition of FAO Schwartz. The students found it very interesting to see several FAO Schwartz toys in the Toys R Us store and the manager spoke about the differences in consumers between each brand.

Students were also able to tour the popular electronics section. Students could not believe the number of sales that occur in the electronics section, and they loved the Apple Bar with Apple products that were featured.

Overall the students gained a strong insight on the successes of the best toy retailer in the world. After the tour, students were able to grab snacks and ask the retail managers more questions about Toys R Us opportunities. It was a great experience for everyone!


Macy's Executive Teaches about Branding

By Amanda Brauen

Students seek internships and career positions with successful retailers every semester. This semester, the Retail Society welcomed Bernard Worthy from Macy's who gave members tips on how to brand themselves. According to Worthy, students must understand the importance of researching a company before talking to a recruiter. Research helps a prospect understand the strategy of the company and its culture. Also, he advised students to have five power stories that they feel comfortable talking about that showcases their abilities. Having these power stories will help answer the difficult questions during an interview.

Bernard Worthy's advice is another part of the support Macy's gives students here at UF.


Chico's VP Encourages Students in Careers

By Jennie Clark

In September, the Retail Society hosted Chris Love from Chico's FAS Inc. Ms. Love has been the Vice President of Talent Acquisition and Staffing for Chico's FAS the past two years. During the meeting, students were given helpful hints on how to progress in their careers and how to pursue their passions.

Ms. Love reflected on her experience in retail, and told her personal story

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Ms. Love has worked in Human Resources with various companies throughout her many years including The Limited Brands, Tommy Hilfiger, Cardinal Brands and Tween Brands. It's through her enthusiasm for recruiting, and her desire to always improve that she has been able to work for many companies and succeed. Ms. Love encouraged students to be intellectually curious at all times and to constantly be asking questions in their current position. She said, "You can't grow without asking and questioning the things around you."

During the hour-long discussion, Ms. Love encouraged the students to always be in service to others. Ms. Love told many stories about how she was able to help someone and then was rewarded for her good deed. Ms. Love experienced many career promotions because of her desire to always be relevant in her industry. She urged students to know as much as possible about their desired industry and career. She always worked hard at every task she was assigned, and she told students to complete every task with their utmost effort.

Students asked about how they can move throughout different parts of a company. Ms. Love urged students to never be afraid to laterally move throughout departments. She told students to always evaluate their position in life and to always think about what's right for them. Ms. Love provided hints about how to establish a personal brand and how to keep yourself at the top of your company.

The members of The Retail Society were able to learn from an experienced retail professional during their meeting. They learned insightful information from a passionate leader in the retail industry.


Signature Brands Executive Helps Students Understand Positioning

Signature Brands is a business unit of Hero, a privately-held company based out of Switzerland that operates in 30 countries. The operation in Ocala, Florida focuses on the Signature Brands product lines which include brands in dessert decorating like Betty Crocker and Cake Mate; seasonal products which include Paas, Pumpkin Masters and Popcorn Expressions.

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Kyle Stenzel, Vice President of Marketing, said brand positioning as Signature Brands continues to grow. He described brand positioning as targeting a customer's reason to buy your brand above other brands. It drives how the consumer engages with the brands. As a marketer, Stenzel works to understand his brands' weaknesses and strengths. He keeps a watch on the competition. He also works to keep his brands alive in the company communications, logo and creativity. Sometimes, brands need to be re-positioned as the economy, demographics or competition changes. An example he gave was Dollar General. A few years ago, Dollar General was positioned as a value retailer where the only customers who shopped there were impoverished. Recently, the company became an alternative retailer for many people caught in the grips of the changing economy. Dollar General's marketing focused on being an alternative to Wal-Mart, changed their product assortment and brightened the store.

In today's world, building brands requires work! Companies need to carefully identify the customer and work to advertise the way a consumer will receive it. The need to communicate through social media is different from just a few years ago. Also, demographics change rapidly. What is relevant today will not be relevant in a decade.


Inspiring Leadership at Dick's Sporting Goods

By Rachel Morse

University of Florida students were thrilled at the arrival of Dick's Sporting Goods to meet the leadership behind this successful business. Moussa Coulibaly, Senior Vice President of Planning and Allocations spoke to students of his humble beginnings in Mali. He talked about growing up in a poor country in a family of 13 children. He recalled having to build his own desk when he went to school. After the sixth grade, his father sent him to France to continue his education. From there he came to the United States.

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Through his tales of struggle and achievement, Coulibaly proved to students that anything is possible. He explained his story of knocking on employers' doors for work and taking to the streets of Pittsburgh with a résumé in hand. He spoke about his first job in a stock room for $4 an hour unloading trucks and placing merchandise on the floor. After working the stockroom, he realized that he held a college degree unlike his coworkers and wanted to make something more of his life. He began looking for extra work within the company. Coulibaly was always eager to volunteer his time and services in order to make himself "diversified" from his coworkers. He stressed the importance of being diversified and how it will help them in landing a career position upon graduation.

Coulibaly also emphasized to students to "be at your best everyday" because you never know who you will encounter and how this can influence your future. He encouraged students to possess a great attitude claiming his success was based upon his positive attitude and added that the biggest ingredients to being successful are hard work, luck and attitude. He never let his background stop him from succeeding. Coulibaly allowed himself to go from living in one of the poorest countries of the world to being a successful businessman working for a Fortune 500 Company. Students were inspired by his perseverance and enjoyed his story of success.


Interconnected Retail with The Home Depot

By Rachel Morse

Kevin Scott, Senior VP of Merchandising Services at The Home Depot, shared some surprising statistics about the company. Most students didn't know that The Home Depot is the world's largest home improvement retailer with revenues of $70 billion. Not only is it the world's largest home improvement retailer but it is also the fourth-largest retailer in the United States. Behind that success is the more than 300,000 associates of The Home Depot. Scott stressed that their associates are the company's number one asset. Scott explained that there are three pillars that drive the interconnected business strategy. It centers around the customers with an excellent team of associates that are the source of product information and innovation. The focus is to serve the customer by understanding what they want and how they want it.

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Customers are important to the business. Scott explained that there are the three types of customers that The Home Depot welcomes. They are Do-it-Yourself customers (DIY), Do-it-for-Me (DIFM) and professionals. In order to get these customers in the store, they have had to try different advertising techniques. The Home Depot is now connecting through mobile devices, television and the Internet. They pay extra attention to how customers want to shop, listen to their observations and turn the feedback into growth for the company. The Home Depot is always looking for ways to make shopping easier for their customers. The winning formula for The Home Depot is to know their customer, keep the shopping experience simple and deliver value at all times.

Aside from the copious amounts of growth The Home Depot has accumulated over the years, the strategies and ideas that Scott presented really caught students' attention. Scott did a remarkable job presenting company ideals and strategy to students.


The Hess Way

Hess Corporation is an integrated oil company. Hess engages in the exploration for and the production of crude oil and natural gas. Additionally, it works to refine and market the petroleum products. The company started with Leon Hess in 1933 and its first Hess retail outlet was built in 1960.

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Hess's strategy for exploration and production is to grow reserves by 3-5% annually. It focuses on building a global portfolio for profitable growth because exploration needs to be on a broad scale and to balance the portfolio as there are geopolitical risks.

There are currently 150 Hess Express stores in Florida. The focus for the Hess Express stores is to be the point of differentiation for busy people who want to purchase quality fuel at a value price, have access to quality brand offerings, shop in a great store environment and encounter engaged associates. The store is only as strong as the weakest link, so having the right people in the right place at the right time is important in retailing. The store strategy is a focus on quality, freshness and value while providing great food brands like Godfathers Pizzas, Dunkin' Donuts, Quiznos sandwiches, as well as a new offering of fresh items called Good To Go. On the commodity side of the business is soda and single serve drinks. Beer and tobacco products are also sold as they are a big sales driver in the convenience store world.

Gary Michniewicz, Hess' Regional Director of West Florida, explained the Hess Way as an experience simply explained as look, feel and attitude. The stores are bright, clean and vibrant with an upbeat atmosphere. The associates are energized and connect with customers. "It's important to have people who love what they do as that persona comes across to the customer," Michniewicz said.


At the Corner of Happy and Healthy

Marlin Hutchins is the Market Vice President of Store Operations for Walgreens. He was gracious to offer Gators an overview of their company located "at the corner of happy & healthy." Walgreens started in 1901 in the south side of Chicago. Throughout its long history, there has been much reinvention. It began by early innovation with the malted milk in the 1920's. In the 1950's, self-service merchandising evolved as yet another retail innovation in drugstore retailing. Walgreens was also the first retailer to use computers to link all of the stores together. So much satellite technology is currently used by Walgreens, they rank second to the United States government. Finally, the drive through pharmacy innovation was introduced and is now commonplace.

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Walgreens is the most trusted brand in pharmacy. They currently operate 7,900 community drugstores. Florida has 935 Walgreens facilities. Walgreens is about doing good while making good business decisions. Its green initiative has initiated a store designed with geothermal energy system that heats and cools throughout the year. Solar panels are common in Florida and electric charging stations are beginning to emerge in Florida as well for electric cars. The company recycles, encourages plastic bag usage and offers eco-friendly options to its customers like a safe medication disposal program.

The company offers many career opportunities. The store is "where the rubber meets the road," according to Hutchins, and the company's affiliation with the David F. Miller Center for Retailing has led Walgreens to grow many Gators within the company.


Target- The Keys to Success

By Caitlyn Edwards

Many students seek rewarding internships or careers with endless opportunities to learn and grow as a leader. Target came to UF to talk with students about its program which focuses on promoting teamwork and fostering leadership. The Target representatives spoke with students about preparing themselves for the retail interviews. In the world of retail, it's important to stand out and exhibit leadership and teamwork skills. Retailers are looking for students with ample leadership experience who have taken the initiative to get involved. Being "fast, fun, and friendly," is key to success. Always dress to impress and come prepared with power stories to get an edge above the rest. It's important to smile, make eye contact, research the company, and make sure each résumé objective is company-specific while providing recruiters with a specific goal. The Miller Center was happy to have Target come to share its valuable insights!


Human Resource Perspective in Retailing

Michael Lemus, a Recruiting, Development & Retention Manager for Firestone Complete Auto Care, opened up his presentation by sharing important numbers. Firestone Complete Auto Care's mission is committed to providing a positive customer experience. He mentioned that Bridgestone has 140,000 teammates with $38 billion sales annually. The company is creating a one-stop shop by including three shops in one.

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The whole premise of his presentation was based upon how human resources have changed. He took students through the hiring process and helped prepare them for future interviews. He shared tips about interviews and application advice as well. Lemus' enthusiasm really captivated our students. He told his personal story of his road to success and students found it to be relevant to them. Lemus also explained the importance of online social media presence in applicants. He stressed the importance of teamwork and what it takes to be a great and successful leader in the workplace. Students enjoyed the mentoring they received from Lemus and found him to be extremely helpful.


Inspiring Students to Consider a Career in Sales

Rich Guidotti, Vice President and General Manager of the North Florida market for AT&T, spoke with students about choosing management careers in sales leadership. He began by challenging students to determine for themselves the definition of success. Only when you know what success is for you, can you work to achieve it. To help students, he prompted them with pillars of success. It began with a simple question: What do you want to do? He told students that they are their own brand and they are the CEO of themselves. He encouraged students to take risks, explore opportunities and not be fearful of failure. He encouraged students to overcome obstacles by actively moving out of their comfort zones and stated that "the biggest obstacle of success is you."

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Guidotti gave many reasons to choose sales as a career.

  1. You learn to practice life skills – not just business skills
  2. The skills you learn are transferrable to other companies and functions within an organization
  3. It helps to provide a "customer centric" foundation for your career.
  4. It's a fun work environment. It's dynamic, exciting, fast-paced and competitive.
  5. It is sustainable and can't be outsourced.
  6. It's great compensation.
  7. The growth in sales is expected to grow 8% in the next five years.
  8. You can reap the rewards of the investment.
  9. It's about helping others to develop into leaders while getting the work done.
  10. It's a valuable experience to learn real world operation of a business.

His inspiring presentation taught students about the value of teamwork, a great attitude and the value of envisioning excellence.


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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