Training Current and Future Employees of Apparel Companies to Think Like the Customer

Fay Y. Gibson, Doris H. Kincade


Employees at apparel companies often come from various backgrounds and are hired or promoted into the merchandising area. With similar academic backgrounds, merchandising students are usually required to take a variety of courses across multiple disciplines. Integrating this diverse information for critical thinking applications is the goal of our cross-discipline curriculum. Although deemed important by industry, engagement with course information by students, who are either incumbent employees or recent graduates, requires training and practice. We observed that incumbent industry employees as well as students in junior and senior level merchandising classes were having difficulty integrating concepts from various company departments or university classes in order to solve everyday retail problems typically encountered by buyers and other retail customers. Implementation of our innovative teaching strategy involved the renovation of a course. Data from student assessment sources indicate that students, both company employees and merchandising majors, enjoyed conducting the research and using content from previous company positions or university classes. Additionally, the data indicated that these students now feel confident in working with retail math formulas in combination with merchandising principles. Retailers and other employers of the students inform us about how impressed they are with the students and their engagement and assimilation of the vast variety of concepts needed for success in the competitive apparel company.

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