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Students queuing up for new Retail major

Students queuing up for new Retail major

The course is not yet on offer but students are already queuing up for AUT University's new retail major in the bachelor of business degree.

A special topic taster paper was created for final year business students by Associate Professor of Retailing, Dr Andrew Parsons and now they want more.

Hannah Corbett is in her third year of a business degree majoring in marketing at the AUT Business School. The 20-year-old has worked in retail for six years and says while she is familiar with how retailing works, the academic rigour has taught her the 'why'.

"The academic theory provides the justification for why things are done as they are," she says. "Such as, the most expensive items are placed on the left as the customer walks through the door. And how in New Zealand a customer will travel through a store from left to right whereas in the US it's right to left, like how we drive."

James Clarke is halfway through a part-time postgraduate diploma in business. The 22-year-old central Aucklander says there's practical thinking behind every aspect in a well laid-out store.

"In our course we've been shown areas of influence on a customer, such as store design and layout," he says. "These things do not occur by accident."

AUT will offer a full retail major in the bachelor of business degree from 2009.

The curriculum has been co-developed in partnership with New Zealand'slargest retail organisations; Westfield Shopping Centres, The Warehouse Limited, Progressive Enterprises Limited, Farmers Trading Company and the New Zealand Retailers Association. Academic support has come from scholars at the University of Oxford and the University of Canterbury.

For their first major assignment, students on the retailing paper designed a speciality product shop floor plan. Both Corbett and Clarke stayed within their areas of experience, lingerie and wine respectively.

With twelve years' experience between them and having worked in these speciality areas, they were able to integrate customer feedback and retailing class work together with their own creative freedom.

Clarke says most wine retailers offer a vast range of wine, so that it's difficult for a customer to focus on any one product.

"My concept was to display individual bottles with a spotlight above. This would enable customers to easily focus on each individual wine, eliminating the difficulty of selecting one out of many."

Mt Eden resident Corbett created a fantasy-themed 'Secret Garden' for her ideal lingerie store.

"I could do anything I wanted so long as I could justify the business case," she says. Corbett and Clarke agree their front line retail experience has been useful. "Customers tell us about the products, store access, layout and about the quality of the products," says Corbett, "and we've been able to integrate this to improve the customer experience."

The pair adds that New Zealand has caught on to international practice by designing malls as destinations.

"Westfield Albany for example is designed as a place for communities," says Clarke. "As well as the retail precinct, there are bars and nightclubs at the back, making it the place to be."

Corbett says the addition of putting slight inclines in mall pathways gives the customer a sense of going somewhere and achievement.

"It's simple psychology," she adds, "it's about applying consumer behaviour."


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