Five students from the Center for Retailing Studies (CRS) traveled to Montreal, Québec on Nov. 15-17 to participate in the inaugural (R)Tech Global Retail Challenge.

It was hosted by the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA) and Bensadoun School of Retail Management at McGill University.

The Aggie team finished in first place.

The event marked CRS’s first international student trip.

The international event exposed students to the retail challenges of sustainability and the circular economy, equipping students to find innovative solutions. The competition showcased new ideas for the future of retail for the next generation of industry leaders.

…Read more

Categories: Business Honors, Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Spotlights, Students, Texas A&M

By Venky Shankar, Coleman Chair Professor & Director of Research, Center for Retailing Studies, Mays Business School, Texas A&M University

COLLEGE STATION, Texas – Shoppers and retailers alike should be salivating this holiday season. This season is expected to bring in the biggest holiday retail sales ever at over $1 trillion! From Thanksgiving to Black Friday to Cyber Monday to pre- and post-Christmas, consumers will be shopping from all devices, touchpoints, channels for all kinds of items. Overall sales are expected to grow by 4.4-5.5 percent over last year. However, e-commerce sales may grow by a whopping 17-22 percent, topping $130 billion this season. The season looks like a case of Walmart and Amazon steroids!

How is this happening? The economy is good. Jobless rate is really low. Wages are up. Taxpayers will pay at lower tax rates for this calendar year. Importantly, consumers perceive they have more money to spend! For the first time, average spending per person may exceed $1,000 this season.

The upcoming Thanksgiving weekend, including Black Friday and Cyber Monday may make up for 30 percent of annual retail sales. This year, it could be the biggest ever. With 165 million people shopping, more retailers are starting Black Friday season early. Cyber Monday will last longer, and retailers will try to cash in on 24 x 7 consumer convenience. The Thanksgiving weekend is emerging as an extended period of shopping, eclipsing single day focus on Black Friday or Cyber Monday. …Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Faculty, Featured Stories, Jobs, Mays Business, Texas A&M

For the second year in a row, students from Mays Business School joined undergraduates from 20 colleges across the U.S. to participate in the University Student Outreach Program and Trade Show in Chicago, hosted by PLMA (Private Label Manufacturers Association).

The PLMA Trade Show highlights innovative private label brands and products from food & beverage, houseware, kitchenware, outdoor living, home & health, and more. More than 1,500 companies from 40 countries showcased their products. Exhibitors ranged from small producers to well-known national brand makers like Aspen Products, Delta Brands, and Jelly Belly who also supply store brands.

Students received hands-on learning experiences about private/store brands, retailers, and manufacturers to bring new products to store shelves. Each student paired with an exhibitor on the trade show floor to observe manufacturers pitching their products to potential buyers.

“The PLMA University Outreach Program was one of the most incredible and invaluable learning opportunities I’ve received in my education,” explained marketing major LeAnn Percivill `21. “I learned about global industry trends, how grocery retailers are staying competitive, and personal stories of triumph and success in the private label food industry. This gave me the opportunity to connect with suppliers and buyers from all over the world, from small pasta suppliers in Italy to large cookie suppliers in Canada.”

Mays participants received mentorship from industry leaders including: Deborah Ginsburg – CEO of Strategia Design, Peggy Davies – Vice President Association Relations at PLMA, Sam Mayberry – COO of Food Lifeline, John Evans – Director of Private Brands for Weis Markets, and Judy Clark – Senior Vice President of Sales for TreeHouse Foods. Educational sessions included topics on building a career, the role of store brands, eCommerce in today’s retail industry, along perspectives from retailers and manufacturers.

Jody Hall, Director of Resourcing, and Rovey Gutierrez, Global Resourcing Manager, from Center for Retailing Studies corporate partner H-E-B also provided mentoring opportunities for Radney and Percivill.

“I had the honor of shadowing H-E-B buyer, Rovey Gutierrez, while he was searching for water bottles to be sold under the H-E-B Hill Country Fare brand. He carefully explained the role of the manufacturer,” said marketing major Katherine Radney `18. “Rovey and his colleague, Jody Hall, set an amazing example with vendor relations. They both approached each of these manufacturer relationships with the utmost respect, doing business in a kind way that clearly makes the industry and world a better place.”

Students also attended the annual meeting for WISE (Women Impacting Store Brands Excellence), an independent non-profit professional development organization that promotes diversity and inclusion in the private label industry.

“This program offered me lifelong connections, wisdom, and inspiration and I can never thank the program or the Center for Retailing Studies and PLMA enough for the fantastic opportunity,” Percivill added.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

Returns are typically viewed as costly and problematic for retailers, particularly with shoppers who abuse return policies. But can legitimate returns be used as a way to build stronger relationships with customers and increase profits?

Professor James Abbey, in conjunction with Michael Ketzenberg and Rich Metters in the Department of Information and Operations Management at Mays Business School, highlight this concept in their recent MIT Sloan Management Review Article, “A More Profitable Approach to Product Returns.”

According to Abbey and colleagues, retailers are missing out on a large group of consumers who never make a return when they find a product unsatisfactory. These, often, one-time purchasers simply never return in every sense: no future purchases and no returned products. Using recent advancements in data analytics, the research team discovered that retailers can use legitimate returns as a profitable marketing tool to better meet the needs of these unsatisfied shoppers.

“Roughly 50 percent of customers never make a return. We refer to them as ‘non-returners.’ They make a couple of transactions, then poof – they’re gone. It’s as if they never existed, but you don’t want to lose these customers,” explained Abbey. “What we’re learning is they’re finding a flaw with the product or they don’t like something about it. Yet, these customers never give the retailer a chance to provide a better option.”

The researchers pose the question: What if companies took these dissatisfied non-returners who walk out the door, and convinced them to become occasional returners who continually come back as regular customers?

“A customer is someone who makes repeated purchases. They are the lifeblood of any business. Retailers incur substantial acquisition costs to attract new purchasers. One-time buyers may often cost the retailer more than they make from the sale,” added Kelli Hollinger, director of the Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University.

Abbey’s team suggests that retailers look at non-returners as an opportunity to upsell or cross-sell a product to better meet the customer’s needs, which can lead to an increase in customer satisfaction and retailer profitability. In effect, focus on building a long-term relationship using returns as a selling tool.

“The people who never make the returns provide only a small fraction of the profit compared to customers making frequent returns. If you could find a way to create more loyalty and build a stronger relationship to get them to try more products, you can train these customers to be occasional returners,” Abbey noted.

“The question we’re really posing is not that continual abusive returners aren’t a problem. On the contrary, such abuse can cost millions of dollars per year. Rather, we’re thinking of how to re-engage with customers who don’t make returns. Retailers need to entice them to come back,” Abbey explained.

In order to convince these shoppers to come back, retailers need to understand their consumers. Abbey’s team advocates that data collection and analysis of transaction patterns of shoppers can be valuable tools in figuring out a path to draw these customers back. These factors could include more competitive pricing, targeted incentives, easier return options, or availability of complementary products.

“It’s really gotten easier to understand a customer, to understand their patterns, and understand what it means to get them back in the store,” said Abbey. “If a person truly does not return products and you see this in their pattern, and you can say hey, look if you waive your right to return, we’ll go ahead and give you an extra 10 percent off. This technique is already in action at WalMart’s online portal Jet.com.”

For some non-returners, such a discount could build loyalty because it rewards their preference to avoid returning items.

“In the end, the vast majority of customers who make returns are significantly profitable. In fact, the data shows that customers making sizable returns generate the greatest profit,” Abbey concluded. “Instead of considering all returns as a failure or undesirable outcome, there’s an opportunity to tailor your return options for customer’s needs as a means to form a long-term, profitable relationship.”

ABOUT MAYS BUSINESS SCHOOL

At Mays Business School, we step up to advance the world’s prosperity. Our mission is to be a vibrant learning organization that creates impactful knowledge and develops transformational leaders. Mays Business School educates more than 6,400 undergraduate, master’s and doctoral students in accounting, finance, management, management information systems, marketing and supply chain management. Mays consistently ranks among the top public business schools in the country for its programs and for faculty research.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Featured Stories, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The Center for Retailing Studies at Texas A&M University will host the 20th annual M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series at 12:40 p.m. on Friday, Nov. 9.

The lecture will follow a presentation of the M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Award to 2018 honoree Arch “Beaver” Aplin III ’80, president and founder of Lake Jackson-based Buc-ee’s stores.

After earning his degree from Texas A&M in 1980, Aplin opened his first Buc-ee’s in 1982. His intention was to build the Buc-ee’s brand methodically, with a goal to become the best convenience store available for service and selection. Today, Buc-ee’s enjoys a cult-like following of enthusiastic customers who make stopping for Beaver Nuggets and clean restrooms part of the family vacation.

In an era when many retailers are closing stores, Buc-ee’s is expanding beyond its Texas footprint into Alabama and Florida. Its enormous “travel centers” near 70,000 square feet, dwarfing typical 3,000-square-foot convenience stores.

The M.B. Zale Visionary Merchant Lecture Series, held at Mays Business School, highlights the role of innovation in the success of retail businesses.

Established in 1998, this annual lecture series honors creative merchandising in today’s marketplace. The series also serves to recognize the late M.B. Zale as a legendary retailer, a visionary businessman and esteemed philanthropist.

The speaker chosen to present this lecture epitomizes the leadership, service philosophy and creativity demonstrated by M.B. Zale.

Past honorees include Maxine Clark, founder of Build-A-Bear; Blake Nordstrom, president of Nordstrom; Karen Katz, former president and CEO of Neiman Marcus Group; and Rodney Faldyn ’88, former CEO and president of Academy Sports + Outdoors.

The event is open to the public.
RSVP: crs@mays.tamu.edu

For media inquiries, contact avernon@mays.tamu.edu.

Categories: Alumni, Center for Retailing Studies, Featured Stories, Former Students, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M, Uncategorized

The Center for Retailing Studies of Mays Business School hosted its annual Retailing Summit on Oct. 11-12 at the Westin Galleria in Dallas.

The conference featured keynotes from Blue Bell, Dunkin’ Brands, Walmart, Sephora, JCPenney, REI, YETI, Orangetheory, Citi, Mattress Firm, Root Inc., and Brierley+Partners.

Key themes for the 2018 Retailing Summit included:

  • Inspiring retail stories
    Creating meaningful customer experiences
  • Brand authenticity
  • Adapting to meet the needs of consumers
  • Dealing with change

…Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Featured Stories, Former Students, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Students, Texas A&M

Retailers are stocking fewer goods on their shelves, but have companies taken inventory reduction too far? A number of academic studies of U.S. retailers have revealed an overall decrease in product inventories.

Rogelio Oliva and Gregory Heim, professors in the Department of Information & Operations Management at Texas A&M University’s Mays Business School, are two of the researchers behind a study that examines this issue using data from 114 U.S. retailers during 2000 to 2013. …Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

The 2018 back-to-school shopping season is underway, and spending is expected to reach almost $27.6 billion – nearly 50 percent of annual school-related spending for a quarter of U.S. households. The one-month countdown to the first day of classes is under way, as many school districts have a start date of Monday, August 20.

In-store vs. online

Brick-and-mortar stores remain in the lead with back-to-school shoppers, but online spending continues to increase. Based on a survey by Deloitte, 57 percent of back-to-school shopping will be conducted in-store compared to 23 percent online, with 20 percent undecided how they will shop. Up from 2017, online shopping has gained ground in sales of school supplies, clothing, and computers. However, in-store sales are up for electronic gadgets. Despite the increasing push from online shopping, 96 percent of parents will head to a physical store at least once during the back-to-school shopping season, according to RetailMeNot…Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Texas A&M

General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) will require more consumer control and creative digital marketing. To clear up some of the confusion, Venky Shankar, Professor & Coleman Chair in Marketing and Director of Research at the Center for Retailing Studies, answers some questions about it.

What is GDPR?

GDPR stands for General Data Protection Regulation and is a sweeping set of new rules developed by the EU to protect consumers in Europe.

Why is it important?

GDPR comes at the right time as we all are still recovering from the Facebook-Cambridge Analytica breach of consumer trust. The new set of rules will go into effect starting May 25. Non-compliant companies can face fines up to 4 percent of company revenues or Euro 20 million, whichever is greater. Although the jurisdiction is limited to EU, it will represent a test case for other countries to develop their own data protection regulations.

Unfortunately, only about one-third of marketers have heard about it and about one-fifth of the companies haven’t made any meaningful changes to their data collection and use to the point of non-compliance.

How will it affect consumers? …Read more

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Faculty, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Research, Texas A&M

Lauren Osborne has been named Advisor of the Year. The university-level recognition from the Division of Student Affairs recognizes advisors who distinguish themselves by providing exemplary guidance, support, and dedication to the advisement of a recognized student organization at Texas A&M University.

Awards are presented annually to one advisor from each of the three categories: registered, affiliated, and sponsored. Osborne advises the Student Retailing Association, which is a registered organization.

Osborne is the program manager for the Center for Retailing Studies (CRS) in Mays Business School’s Department of Marketing.

Osborne encourages officers to step up as leaders, said CRS Director Kelli Hollinger. “SRA runs incredibly smoothly and provides extraordinary professional development opportunities for its 65 members.”

Hollinger said she sees Osborne’s passion for her work exhibited every day. “Students admire her so much for genuinely caring about their academic success, career ambitions, and personal stories,” she said.

Osborne graduated from Texas A&M in 2005 with a degree in Recreation, Park and Tourism Sciences with an emphasis in Tourism Marketing. She will celebrate her five-year anniversary with Mays on July 1. She started with CRS as program coordinator, and was promoted to program manager in 2016.

She previously worked as the director of development for the Children’s Museum of the Brazos Valley. Before that, she worked as an executive meeting manager in the hotel industry for 6 ½ years at properties in Texas and Mississippi.

Categories: Center for Retailing Studies, Centers, Featured Stories, Marketing, Mays Business, News, Selfless service, Spotlights, Staff, Texas A&M