- phase completed
- phase in-progress
Retail merchandising at the University of Minnesota Twin Cities highlights the interface between the retail industry and design. Students learn about a wide range of retail strategies and management issues such as consumer research, consumer behavior, promotions and marketing, sourcing and buying, leadership and management skills, retail technology, digital retail analytics and social media, and customer experience design.
Writing continues to be critical for students participating in the retail merchandising major as the program has continued to expand from its early days in DHA. Students in RM need to simultaneously develop skills in the professional practice of retail (from sourcing to sales) and to develop the analytical tools to use market and other research to make decisions for retail spaces. Students in the program bring diverse and valuable work experience to their courses but are less familiar with practices of research and documentation that are typical of the academic field of retail merchandising. This gap emerges most clearly in upper-division courses that students encounter near graduation, at a time when students’ work and professional lives may influence their motivation to engage with research.
Writing in Retail Merchandising
As a part of our process of engaging with the Legacy project, we developed this set of characteristics of writing in Retail Merchandising, which informs our abilities and criteria. While similar to some of the language of the initial DHA characteristics, this list represents the consensus of current faculty.
The Retail Merchandising faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “What characterizes academic and professional communication in this discipline?”
- Applies field-specific terminology and tools - within all aspects of the discipline
- Occurs in various professional settings - from small, independent boutiques to large international corporations
- Attends to market trends and market research - with appropriate citation
- Works critically, analytically, and synthetically with ideas
- Adds new insights and information to an existing conversation
- Is clear, concise, and factual
- Is descriptive and observation-based - moving from critical observation to nuanced professional communication
- Incorporates visual, quantitative, and qualitative research to present analysis and make business cases
- Employs a professional "I", or first-person voice, using a tone that is authoritative and moves beyond subjective reactions
Writing Abilities Expected of Retail Merchandising Majors
The Retail Merchandising faculty generated the following list in response to the question, “With which writing abilities should students in this unit’s major graduate?”
Minimum Requirements for Writing in the Major:
- Students will demonstrate their ability to inform and educate by building skills in research, summary, explanation, analysis, and drawing conclusions.
- Students will demonstrate data literacy and ability to tell stories with data.
- Students will draw ideas from a variety of academic/professional sources.
- Students will identify and use accurate information to make an effective business case to enhance personal credibility.
- Students will write in ways that provide clarity to complex issues (ie. contracts and data analysis) to audiences of varying technical expertise.
- Students will demonstrate their ability to persuade and inspire by using the conclusions and implications of research to make a case for action and to address/move audiences (including suppliers, manufacturers, supply chain, retailers, owners, professionals, and consumers)
- Students will produce writing that is evocative, engaging, and persuasive.
- Students will develop a professional communication demeanor, demonstrating creativity in choices for retail design, visual merchandising, and all elements of the purchasing cycle.
Menu of Grading Criteria Used in Retail Merchandising Courses
For each of the eight desired abilities, the Retail Merchandising faculty have generated a set of grading criteria.
- Draw successfully from professional, academic, and trade publications and be based in evidence.
- Draw explicitly from professional skills, including retail design, visual merchandising, and all elements of the sourcing and purchasing cycle.
- Advance a business case for decisions and recommendations based on sound reasoning and evidence.
- Be focused on the expectations and needs of diverse audiences, including but not limited to (including suppliers, manufacturers, supply chain, retailers, owners, professionals, and consumers).
- Include quantitative, qualitative, and visual elements to best communicate ideas and persuade audiences.
- Enhance the credibility of the writer by using industry language and demonstrating ability with industry genres. Students will develop a professional voice.
- Will demonstrate creativity, engagement, and passion for their projects.
Highlights from the Writing Plan
Faculty in the department have identified strengthening the connection of research and practice as a key goal for continuing curricular development. This will be addressed in multiple ways. First, it will include the development of an additional course in data analysis for retail merchandising in the upper-division. Plans for this course were already underway, but will provide another opportunity to familiarize students with research and quantitative reasoning.
In addition, we are adding two new courses to the curriculum:
Retail Transformations - Experiential Learning Course
This course aims to educate retail students with the most up to date retail topics and trends by learning through experience and reflection. The course will consist of 15 sessions with topics determined by the Retail Merchandising Advisory Board industry experts. Seven of these classes will feature a different Retail Merchandising professional with expertise and experience in the topic being presented and discussed. This course is designed to prepare students for practical application of relevant topics facing retailers in a professional setting. There will be group assignments including group presentations.
Data-driven Retail - Big Data and Text Analysis
This course aims to understand the concept of big data and its applications in retail business. It will introduce the learners to text mining and text manipulation basics to generate retail insights from big data available on the internet. The students will be engaged in a semester-long project to practice big data analysis and produce a written report to demonstrate solid research skills, analytic thinking, quantitative reasoning, presentation of verbal and visual data, and interpretation and synthesis of data in relation to the retail industry.
Across the curriculum, our new set of criteria will focus more explicit attention to the connections between research and practice in existing courses (helping students to see that research-based conclusions produce the evidence upon which sound business decisions are made). These connections are emphasized in the attention to rubric design that are a part of implementation.