New Center for Retail Design and Innovation Opens

November 7, 2019

On the second floor of McNeal Hall, a new research center is opening its doors. Designed to connect retail industry professionals with faculty and students, the new Center for Retail Design and Innovation (CRDI) brings a unique design thinking approach to retail industry problems.

“As one of the only retail merchandising research centers located within a design college, CRDI will help students develop crucial skills in design thinking, creative problem solving, leadership, and business analysis,” explained CRDI co-director Peggy Lord. “It will also foster collaboration between students, faculty, and professionals in the retail industry.”

Composed of retail industry business partners, retail merchandising faculty members, and students, the center seeks to close the gap between academia and industry. “Our industry partners have the opportunity to greatly impact the education of our future retail leaders. Students in the center will tackle real-world research questions, participate in focus groups, and forge connections directly with retail professionals,” said Lord. Industry partners will also work closely with faculty members on the development of new business strategies and analysis.

One of the center’s first projects is a case study on behalf of Macy’s. “This fall, students in RM3124: Consumers of Design have partnered with Macy’s to perform a strategic evaluation of how a community of Macy’s colleagues called Macy’s Style Crew share their passion for fashion and style as influencers on social media,” said Lord. “Social media is such an important part of engaging with today’s consumers that our students will be able to apply this experience directly to their future career. I can’t wait to see what insights they generate through their research.”

Working in groups, the students will examine current social media content and platforms of Macy’s Style Crew members to identify opportunities for deeper engagement with consumers. The teams will present their final research to Macy’s executives in December who will select a winning group.

“I am thrilled to be part of this center and I look forward to seeing what our faculty, students, and partners in the industry can accomplish together,” concluded Lord.

The retail merchandising program is proud to share that, as part of its 2020 Retail Connect event, it was able to provide individual scholarships to six current retail students: Courtney Clark, Caroline Geiger, Pei Jet Teh, Olivia Rein, Annie Skogen, and Kersten Wetterstrom.

At the onset of planning for Retail Connect 2020, event organizers thought their largest obstacle would be overhauling the event’s brand—then the pandemic hit followed swiftly by the killing of George Floyd.

On December 3, students, faculty, and staff celebrated the official opening of the new Center for Retail Design and Innovation (CRDI).