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Shop.org, the digital division of the National Retail Federation, has awarded $2,500 scholarships to each of the six students from the winning team of the American Express/NRF Foundation National Intercollegiate Retail Challenge. Following a 30-minute presentation to a group of retail educators and executives about their winning strategy at NRF's Annual Convention and EXPO, Shop.org surprised the students with the presentation.
For this year's challenge, students has to employ Web 2.0 and social networking tools to help a fictional department store's Web site connect its brand with shoppers. Students in the winning group proposed that the fictional department store make use of such tools as customer reviews, blog advertising, and Facebook to boost awareness and burnish its image. The students also developed marketing, merchandising, and technology solutions.
"It is really impressive to see what these students were able to put together with their knowledge of both retail and their understanding of new media like Facebook, blogs, and Second Life," noted Shop.org executive director Scott Silverman. "If these students are any indication, retail's future leaders are bright, energetic, and deeply aware of the importance of connecting with customers."
The scholarship recipients were Kyle Bender, senior, retailing, University of Wisconsin; Ashley Cline, senior, merchandising, Florida State University; Sarah Losse, senior, retailing and consumer sciences, University of Arizona; Vikram Madan, senior, finance and accounting, University of Pennsylvania; Samantha Weaver, senior, business administration, University of Florida; and Alex West, senior, marketing, University of Michigan. Melinda Burke of the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing at the University of Arizona advised the winning team.
The American Express/NRF Foundation Intercollegiate Retail Challenge encourages diverse retail careers by involving college students in a competitive collaborative role play, with support from retail executive mentors, to develop a multitiered business strategy. The activity is open to students in a retail or related major. Rather than pitting one school against another, one student from each of the six schools taking part in the challenge make up a team, with six teams in all. The team members at each school will focus on a different career perspective, such as marketing, IT, e-commerce, customer relations, store operations, and a project manager.
The scholarships were provided from the Ray M. Greenly Scholarship Fund, which was established in January 2006 to provide financial support to students pursuing careers in the e-commerce industry and is named for the late Ray Greenly, who was v.p. of research and member services of Shop.org for almost seven years.
Shop.org's 700 members include the 10 largest retailers in the U.S. and more than 60 percent of the Internet Retailer Top 100 E-Retailers.