Global Retail Operations is a course that is a part of the final semester in the Fashion Arts and Business program at Humber College. The course focuses on an intensive, detailed, and diverse study of all the elements of retail.
Six years ago, the college reached out to a shopping center to convert this theoretical understanding of the course into a practical or ‘real work’ project. The key motive of it has been to allow students to pull together all the components of retail that have been studied to apply to a real-world scenario, and this is what the Vaughan Mills shopping project is all about. The collaboration between the College and Vaughan Mills has been made possible through Mina Cisternino, who is the Specialty Leasing Manager for Vaughan Mills. Having extensive and elaborate expertise in retail Mina has always been on the lookout to finding innovative business plans from retailers every year to set her centers apart.
The Specialty Leasing wing scouts innovative smaller business concepts that could function in pop-up kiosks, carts, stores, or event spaces generating excitement and creating that experiential factor for customers to be a part of. With the in-depth study of how a customer’s offline shopping is no more a mere transactional exchange, students through this project have been constantly challenged to create an offline business concept that could involve either a product, service, or event. To ensure students have full creative freedom, finances are not included. This has allowed students to explore different routes and be imaginative as and how they have wanted to while figuring out their concepts.
A major section of the Global Retail Operations course has been devoted to pulling this concept together and to take the professional and practical aspects a notch up the project is presented to a panel of judges to include Mina representing Vaughan Mills, Jennifer Reitano, representing the Fashion Arts & Business program and their professor Anna Zamparo.
The project encourages students to think like management consultants and not just focus on conceptual aspects but also on selling the concept to the panel ensuring its feasibility and methods of operations. To make sure all aspects are considered thoroughly students are advised to research worldwide retail trends. They are also required to do in-depth SWOT research of the mall’s marketing, competitive environment, and target market so that the concept can be as realistic as possible.
To add that extra incentive and recognize students for their hard work, top groups receive the ‘Shopping Center ‘Experiential Business Concept’ Achievement Award’. All groups experience an exceptional real-world learning scenario and also earn some transferable skills such as teamwork, negotiation, effective communication, leadership, and presentation skills along the way.
Overall, this project has played and still plays a significant role in polishing students for the industry by helping them develop some of the most important transferable skills and giving them a taste of how things happen in the real world.