The NRF Foundation and American Express announced the winners of their annual Aspire2Retail Intercollegiate Challenge, which is designed to increase understanding of diverse career paths in retail by engaging university students in a competitive, collaborative role play that involves implementing a multi-tiered business strategy.
This year, the challenge required students to describe all aspects of showrooms and outline the threats and opportunities that come with it. Showrooming is described as the practice of shoppers comparing retailers’ store prices to other companies’ online prices and choosing to purchase the item online from a different company.
The students had to collaborate on a comprehensive marketing strategy, aimed at addressing showrooming and were instructed to propose customer service practices that enhance loyalty and maximize the use of the latest technological advancements. A financial, merchandising, and retail operations plan also had to be produced to complete and pass the challenge.
“Retailers have to move fast to keep pace with customers’ demands, and every business unit – from marketing to merchandising to IT – plays a huge role in addressing showrooming behavior,” said NRF Foundation Executive Director Ellen Davis. “This year’s challenge was a real example of something that retail companies are dealing with every day. We are thrilled to honor the winning team for their work and dedication to this project, and look forward to seeing each student grow in their academics and professional careers in retail.”
Jerry O’Brien, director of Kohl’s Department Stores Center for Retailing Excellence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led this year’s winning team. The students who made up the winning team include:
-Hillary Haskins, Florida State University
-Reannah Haselden, Georgia Southern University
-Narisa Montero, University of Arizona
-Sabrina Occiur, University of Florida
-Panama Marquand, University of Michigan
-Nicole Vandyke, University of Wisconsin-Madison
Each student will receive an educational scholarship worth $2,500 thanks to generous contributions from Sears Holdings Corporation, Macy’s, and Toys“R”Us, Inc. The winning students also receive complimentary registration to Retail’s BIG Show in New York City, where they will present their award-winning business plan to attendees on Monday, January 14 at 3:15 p.m. during the session, “Showrooming: An Opportunity or a Threat?”
The program, established in 2006, pairs students from six retail programs across the country together to solve a business-case scenario. Each student selects a different business discipline, and is mentored by a retail executive in that field. Students then present their solution to a panel of judges, who scored the presentations on creativity, relevance, and understanding of the challenge topic.