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NRF, Amex name winners of retail challenge


WASHINGTON — The NRF Foundation and American Express announced the winners of their fifth annual Aspire2Retail Intercollegiate Challenge. Each student will receive an educational scholarship worth $2,500.

The contest is designed to increase understanding of diverse career paths in retail by engaging university students in a competitive, collaborative roleplay that involves implementing a multi-tiered business strategy.

This year, the challenge required students to describe all aspects of showrooming and outline the threats and opportunities that come with it. Showrooming is when shoppers compare retailers’ store prices to other companies’ online prices and 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 and Nicole VanDyke, University of Wisconsin-Madison.

The educational scholarships the winners will receive were made possible by contributions from Sears Holdings Corporation, Macy’s and Toys“R”Us. The winning students will also receive complimentary registration to Retail’s BIG Show in New York City, where they will present their award-winning business plan to attendees at 3:15 p.m., Monday, January 14, during the “Showrooming: An Opportunity or a Threat?” session.

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 score the presentations on creativity, relevance and understanding of the challenge topic.

Participating retailer and industry experts that were involved in mentoring and judging the student presentations include Cheryl Berinato, Macy’s, Inc.; Ellen Davis, NRF Foundation; Derek Lounsbury, Toys“R”Us, Inc.; Thomas McCurtain, Sears Holdings Corporation; Herman Nell, Petco; Kristen Sanders, The Container Store; Lori Schafer, SAS; Omar Segura, Sears Holdings Corporation; Kacey Sharrett, Toys“R”Us, Inc.; Lydia Shultz, American Express Company; Vito Spano, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Mark Williams, Best Buy.

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