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LBS Alumni Spotlight: The Retail Industry & Holiday Trends

retail industry

Unlike the consulting, finance and technology sectors, retail has always been regarded as a safe industry for employment. That’s because no matter how bad the economy gets, the retail industry will never cease to exist as long as people still make purchases. And that’s especially true around the holidays.

According to a survey by the Centre for Retail Research about holiday shopping, U.K. households reported spending an average of £794.39 on gifts in 2015.  The most recent survey by Statista, meanwhile, reveals that U.S. consumers expect to personally spend an average of $752 on presents this Christmas season. That’s not a small chunk of change. It’s a busy time of year, and many retail companies go all out to bring in new customers and grab the largest percentage of sales. But does that mean it’s a good industry to work in?

According to the London Business School (LBS), retail is a great industry for employment—in fact 3 percent of MBAs and 3 percent of MiMs (Masters in Management) from the 2015 LBS class headed into the consumer and retail industry upon graduation. Although the economy might still be volatile and the retail landscape may regularly change, the desire for goods—in particular, luxury goods—has held strong. At the same time, keeping pace with consumers—who are always demanding a better experience and digital outreach in exchange for their purchases—requires constant innovation.

This combination of strong demand and creative opportunities results in engaging roles in the retail industry over the holidays and throughout the year. But what’s the field really like? To get a better idea, we spoke to Julia De Toffoli, an LBS graduate and the senior product merchandising manager for women’s leather goods at Mulberry—a forward-thinking luxury British design manufacturer.

In this alumni spotlight, De Toffoli gave us an in-depth look at her experiences in retail as well as her time at LBS.

Clear Admit: What courses, clubs and experiences prepare LBS students for a career in retail? 

Julia De Toffoli: For a successful career in retail, it is important to have a broad understanding of management topics, from accounting and finance to organizations and human resource management, which are all courses of the curriculum at London Business School. The most important courses for retail, however, would be those focused on marketing, pricing and brand management. These courses give students a true understanding of the customer, pricing strategies and product portfolio management.

Also, the Retail & Luxury Goods Club is a student-led association at London Business School that organizes many speaker events and company visits throughout the year, where students have the opportunity to hear and learn from very high-profile speakers and get the chance to network with alumni working in the retail and luxury goods industries. Similarly, the Marketing Club organizes a variety of different events with invitees from top fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG) companies. [These are better known as consumer packaged goods (CPG) in the United States.]

CA: How did LBS prepare you to enter a career in the retail industry?

JDT: During my master’s at LBS, I had the chance to visit many companies in the retail industry, not only in London but also in Paris and Florence. For instance, we were invited to the headquarters of Net-a-Porter Group, LVMH, L’Oréal, Hermès, Fast Retailing, Gucci and many others.

I was also part of the organizing committee of the LBS e-commerce conference where we were able to put together panels with consultants and industry experts from companies like OC&C Strategy, Google, Asos and Farfetch.

It was really through these kinds of events that I was able to figure out exactly what I wanted to do and how I could land that dream job.

CA: Why did you decide to enter the retail sector after graduation?

JDT: During my studies, I had decided not only to enter the retail sector but, more specifically, the luxury industry. I wanted to fully grasp the complete supply chain process from initial product design until the finished goods are sold on the shop floor to the outside world. The retail industry is a very tangible environment, which made it more exciting, more real and more personal for me.

CA: What trends are you seeing in the retail industry—things a recent or upcoming grad should be aware of?

JDT: The retail industry has evolved tremendously in the past 15 years with the rise of the digital economy. Nowadays, it’s an industry where you need to be quite tech savvy if you want to stay at the top of your game.

CA: What’s the most interesting thing about working in retail during the busy holiday season?

JDT: The most interesting thing about working in retail is that the holiday season lasts all year! There is certainly a peak during the month of December, but it is, in reality, very busy all year round. There is winter sale coming up, then Chinese New Year, Valentine’s Day, Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and there are also holidays of all faiths that you can cater to. So as a retailer you actually need to stay alert all year long.

This post has been republished in its entirety from its original source, metromba.com.

Posted in: Beyond Business School, Careers, MBA Career Strategy, MBA News, News, Student Perspectives

Schools: London Business School

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