Two of the core tenants of the Center for Retail Design and Innovation’s (CRDI) mission are to connect retail merchandising students with retail professionals and to give students the opportunity to work on real-world projects. This fall, students in RM 3124: Consumers of Design tackled a research project given to them by Décor Senior Vice President of Brand Management and alumna of the College of Design, Jaime Curtis.
Décor is a full-service apparel design and manufacturing company based out of the Twin Cities. The company is known for its unparalleled product, innovative supply chain, and integrity at every stage. “We work with our retail partners in a variety of ways,” explained Curtis. “The Décor team delivers trend and product design, merchandising and inventory planning support, full sourcing and supply chain capabilities, and branding and marketing services.”
Retail students were asked to step into the shoes of a Décor data analyst. Their tasks included conducting research and generating insights to help improve the process for gathering and analyzing feedback and insights from a specific target demographic. Students explored a range of topics for their projects such as demographics, consumer lifestyle and shopping preferences, the process for collecting data, key competitors’ offerings, and platforms for soliciting consumer insights.
“My group decided to focus our case study research on women’s activewear because we thought it would be the most interesting product to learn about,” explained Annie Skogen (Retail Merchandising). “One of the key components of our research was a survey. We asked about respondents’ social media preferences, how social media impacts their shopping, and how it impacts what they buy.”
Each student group prepared a 10-minute recorded presentation including key findings and recommendations drawn from their research. “Virtual group projects definitely presented a learning curve for us in conducting our group meetings, research, and presentation,” said Skogen. “However, I think this project was great preparation for what the future of the professional world could look like in our post-collegiate careers. I think virtual teamwork will be a vital component in our professional skill set.”
The students were not the only members of the partnership who learned through the project process. “Working with the U students was not only a great way to expose them to the different career paths available in the retail industry,” said Curtis. “It also created opportunities for our company to gauge what current fashion and trend tools are most influential for students.”
The case studies were judged on their inclusion of strategy, process, approach, and next steps, as well as presentation delivery. “We had a lot of fantastic projects and I was blown away by the work our students did, particularly while learning remotely,” said CRDI Co-director Peggy Lord. “It was great to watch students apply retail theory to practical retail problems.”
Though it was a tough decision, the winning team was selected for their work on consumer insights for Décor activewear and was composed of students Brianna Allum, Olivia Bennett, Addeline Johnson, Cora Nesvacil, Isabella Orthey, Madeline Roble, Annie Skogen, and Emily Strohfus. “One of the main things that attracted me to the Retail Merchandising program was how connected it is with the retail industry in the Twin Cities, and I want to send my gratitude to Décor for giving students the opportunity to participate in the real-life application through our class studies and helping us prepare for work after college!” concluded Skogen.
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