Intercollegiate Retail Challenge 2008-2009

The mission of the aspire2retail Intercollegiate Retail Challenge is to build awareness of diverse career paths in retail by engaging university students in a competitive, collaborative role play with support from retail executive mentors to implement a multi-tiered business strategy. Read more.

2008-2009 Intercollegiate Retail Challenge Winners
The 2008-2009 Winning Team, Retailnet Consulting at NRF's BIG Show, in January 2009.
Team members were awarded scholarships from NRF's digital division, Shop.org.

The Winning Team

Retailnet Consulting, led by Melinda Burke of the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing at the University of Arizona, delivered the winning solution to the panel of judges on December 29, 2008.

Retailnet Consulting is made up of students representing six universities as follows:

  • Kyle Bender, Senior, Retailing, University of Wisconsin
  • Sarah Losse, Senior, Retailing and Consumer Sciences, University of Arizona
  • Ashley Cline, Senior, Merchandising, Florida State University
  • Samantha Weaver, Senior, Business Administration, University of Florida
  • Alex West, Senior, Marketing, University of Michigan
  • Vikram Madan, Senior, Finance and Accounting, University of Pennsylvania

Participating Universities

  • University of Arizona, Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing
  • University of Florida, Miller Center for Retailing Education and Research, Warrington College of Business
  • Florida State University, The Center for Retail Merchandising and Product Development
  • University of Michigan, Ross School of Business
  • Wharton University of Pennsylvania, Baker Retailing Initiative
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison, Center for Retailing Excellence

Challenge Overview

The Scenario: You are part of the team at a large, well established, cross-channel department store. As the variety of products your brand offers has grown, and the reliance on the Web has increased, it has become difficult to provide the top-notch customer service for which your brand is known. After attending the Shop.org Annual Summit, a mandate was passed down by upper management that "it is time our consumer communications joins the 21st century."

You are part of a cross-functional team in your organization asked to investigate implementing Web 2.0 and social networking tools and technologies to help your web site connect your brand with the new empowered consumer. Customer reviews and blogs are specific priorities that upper management has deemed to be "no-brainers." Not only can implementing these new tools and technologies help relieve your customer service staff, but it also has the potential to position your brand to attract younger consumers. Therefore, your plan will not just make up for loss through direct customer interface, but will generate new customers, sales, and productivity for your company.

The Challenge:

  • Develop a strategy, implement, and promote the introduction of Web 2.0 and social media tools for your retail operations.
  • Select specific "social" tools that can improve your customer service, while maintaining consistency with your brand message.
  • Coordinate with the owners of each of the channels to make sure that these Web 2.0 tools can help the stores and catalog as well as the Web.
  • Work with IT to make sure the implementation of these tools is not a strain on their resources.
  • Create a marketing plan around rolling out and promoting these tools and educating your existing customer base of the changes, as well as attracting new customers with these innovative improvements.
The Six Member Team Consists of:
Judging Criteria--the solution should:
  • Marketing/Branding
  • IT
  • eCommerce
  • Customer Relations
  • Store/Catalog Operations
  • Project Manager, Community
    (new position hired to oversee the development and management of these tools)
  • address each of the five aspects of the challenge
  • incorporate appropriate input from the six operational areas
  • demonstrate creativity
  • be realistic in scope and commitment of resources
  • show teamwork in development and presentation of the solution
  • demonstrate each team members' basic understanding of the role and career track of the area they represented in the challenge

Retail Executive Mentors:

  • Heather Barksdale, Director of Store Operations, Build-A-Bear
  • Mary Lou Benjamin, Director of Customer Feedback, Macy’s
  • Kevin Ertell, Sr. Vice President of E-Business, Borders
  • Richard E. Last, Vice President and Director of New Business Development, JCPenney, and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Shop.org
  • Kathy Monetti, Vice President of Brand Marketing, American Girl
  • Jason Zimmerman, Director of IT, Petco

Challenge Judges:

  • Troy Carrothers, Sr. Vice President of Credit, Kohl’s
  • Pinny Gniwisch, Founder and Chief Motivational Officer, Ice.com
  • Ethan Holland, E-Commerce Manager, Jewelry Television
  • Mitch Joel, President, Twist Image
  • Richard E. Last, Vice President and Director of New Business Development, JCPenney, and Chairman of the Board of Directors, Shop.org
  • Adam Silverman, Director of E-Commerce, Wet Seal
  • Chris Wilson, Vice President of E-Commerce, L.L.Bean
  • Anne Voller, Director of College Initiatives, Macy’s
  • Christopher Hollins, Vice President, Retail and Emerging Industries, American Express

Team Presentations:
Download a copy of each teams' presentation.

Challenge Scenarios and Previous Winners

The aspire2retail Intercollegiate Retail Challenge is sponsored by American Express.