Center for Retail Management Preparing Students for Evolving Industry
By Mike Emery
In spite of some iconic outlets shuttering their doors (or on the verge of closing permanently), the outlook for retail remains bright in 2019. According to the National Retail Federation, U.S. sales are expected to top $3.8 billion in 2019.
That’s good news for many businesses … and a sign that the retail industry remains a viable career option for many future professionals. Thanks to the University of Houston-Downtown’s Center for Retail Management (based within the Marilyn Davies College of Business), students can gain invaluable insights on retail careers and ultimately contribute to both regional and national economies.
No one has seen more fluctuation in industry trends than the center’s director, Tracy Davis. A grocery veteran, Davis has weathered many storms in an ever-changing marketplace. Now, he shares his knowledge with students at the center, as well as high school students across the state.
“Too often, people have a misconception about working in retail,” Davis said. “One of the first things I try to communicate to our students is that there are many opportunities in retail and very good salaries.”
Through the center, undergraduate students can earn a Retail Management minor to complement a Bachelor of Business Administration degree. Also available through the center is a Retail Management Certificate aimed at non-degree seeking professionals seeking to enhance their knowledge of the industry. According to Davis, a Retail Management major is in development.
Supporting the Center for Retail Management is the Texas Retailers Education Foundation, a subsidiary of the Texas Retailers Association. Since the center’s inception in 2010, the foundation has contributed $655,000 to support the program.
“The Texas Retailers Education Foundation is pleased to have worked with UHD since 2010 to improve the Texas workforce by raising awareness of the distinct educational opportunities available for students who choose to enter this exciting and dynamic industry,” said George Kelemen, president and CEO of the Texas Retailers Association.
In addition to preparing UHD students for possible careers in the retail industry, Davis works with school districts to enlighten high school students on retail career opportunities and potentially develop an academic pipeline to lead them from high school to retail-focused degree programs in community colleges and UHD.
“I stress this to students at high schools and at UHD. Retail is a good hub for so many business disciplines … human resources, supply chain management, accounting, marketing and more,” he said. “Knowledge of retail can be very helpful in understanding clientele and the issues they face on a day-to-day basis.”
He cited a recent example when he spoke to some supply chain students. He posed the question, “What happens when a delivery truck is late?”
The students replied that the shipment would simply be late. Davis informed them that they needed to take into consideration the staff in charge of receiving the shipped goods. A late shipment may conflict with work schedules, overtime policies and other issues that could impact the shipment and the relationship between the retail outlet and the company that is shipping the goods.
This example helps illustrate how retail careers aren’t just customer facing. Many career paths in retail are behind-the-scenes positions such as marketing, adverting, warehousing, real estate, finance and accounting, human resources and others.
Davis is certainly a voice of experience in the retail industry. He started in the grocery business at the age of 15 as a grocery sacker at Safeway. He worked his way through the ranks, becoming a store manager and ultimately became an executive vice president and COO for the store chain Apple Tree. After three decades in grocery, he called it a career. Still, he was enticed out of retirement by the opportunity to prepare new professionals for a changing retail marketplace.
“This industry is changing every day, but the fact is, people need to shop. They may do it for enjoyment or for basic needs like food or home goods,” he said. “That’s where retailers come in … and they need qualified workers. The goal of the Center for Retail Management is to help prepare those workers.”
The University of Houston-Downtown (UHD)—the second largest university in Houston—has served the educational needs of the nation’s fourth-largest city since 1974.
As one of four distinct public universities in the University of Houston System, UHD is a comprehensive four-year university led by Dr. Juan Sánchez Muñoz. Annually, UHD educates more than 14,000 students; boasts over 50,000 alumni and offers 44 bachelor’s and eight master’s degree programs within five colleges (Marilyn Davies College of Business; Humanities & Social Sciences; Public Service, Sciences & Technology; and University College). In 2018, UHD grew its First Time in College student population by 11 percent and transfer students by 14 percent.
UHD has the most affordable tuition among four-year universities in Houston. It also is ranked among 15 U.S. universities with lowest net price to students (according to the U.S. Department of Education). The University is noted nationally as both a Hispanic-Serving Institution and a Minority-Serving Institution. For more on the University of Houston-Downtown, visit www.uhd.edu.