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"Nxt In Retail" Speaker Series: Brick and Mortar is Alive and Well

One of the key metrics of success of the retail industry is the ability to stay nimble in order to adapt and change with the evolving needs of consumers. Retail is known for innovation, reimagining what was once purely transactional to an experience with the customer at the forefront.

To help students navigate how the retail industry will transform from its current form, and to offer insight into what a career in retail is like, LIM College’s Fashion Industry Advisory Board Members Alan Spalter and David Burnett alongside Professors Marla Greene and Dr. Nicole Kirpalani have developed the Nxt in Retail Speaker Series.

The first event in the series took place virtually on September 27 and aimed to answer the question: “Is Brick and Mortar Dead?” with featured industry professional panelist:

  • Shequeita Orr Frazier, Senior Director of Enterprise Space, Target
  • Samuel Fregia, Buyer for STORY, Macy’s
  • Jacqueline Peche, Buyer of Bath & Body/Personal Care, Ross
  • Silvia Sebben, Account Executive Direct to Consumer Retail, Google

As LIM students, we were honored to serve as co-moderators for this very interesting event. And here are five key takeaways:

1. Data is Not Just Digital
Data is not only driving new online and digital channels but is also a key driver of success for the physical store. Brands that offer an omnichannel experience are able to utilize their digital footprint to pivot in-store strategy using data collected from customers that interact with them on other channels, from social media to shopping on their app. This allows retailers to essentially work smarter, not just harder, by being able to be focused and targeted with their approach with data they collect directly from their customer base.

2. Physicals Stores will Always Have Value 
While the question has been raised on whether the physical store will eventually become obsolete, it has not lost its value to retailers and is expected to continue as a vital channel for consumers and retailers. As Silvia noted, there is not a billion-dollar company without a physical store, and as of December 2020 38% of customers who interact with a retailer online end up in store. More and more brands are taking the ‘Click and Brick’ method by building their customer base online before investing in a storefront, showcasing the value of having a physical store even with a strong online presence.

3. Buyers as Business Analyst
With increased competition from digital channels, successful buyers are taking on a business analyst role that combines retail planning and buying. The buyer becomes the editor-in-chief of editing their product to assortment to best meet the needs of their customer. In this way, a successful buyer’s biggest strength is knowing their customer and continuously learning and asking questions. This goes to show the importance of being open-minded in your career path as your career continuously builds to give you a different perspective.

4. The Future is Bright
We are entering an age where anything is possible. Covid-19 has launched the industry into thinking of outside the box in an effort to still meet the customer where they are at. Because of this, new formats are rising (i.e., Bloomies by Bloomingdales), and digital brands have started building their first storefronts. Although it is impossible to know entirely what lies ahead, most retailers are predicting the resolution of current supply chain issues in order to meet inventory levels. The one thing that is for certain is that the physical store is here to stay.

5. Be Curious and Be Coachable
The two things retailers look for in prospective employees are curiosity and coachability. The first meaning curiosity in all aspects of your field. Employers want someone who is constantly asking “Why?” which shows you are continuously looking to grow in your profession and knowledgeability. The latter mentioned was coachability; while one does not always know the right answer, it is important to be open to being mentored by those you work with. This goes hand-in-hand with curiosity in the sense that in order to be coachable, you need to be willing to learn.

Join us October 25th for the next event in the Nxt in Retail series: Direct 2 Consumer, moderated by students Erika Parker and Marcel Smith, to continue to conversation.