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Two professors in Catawba’s school of business attend retail symposium

SALISBURY — Dr. Michelle Woodhouse and Dr. Pamela Thompson, professors in Catawba College’s Ketner School of Business attended the National Retail Federation Retail Academic Symposium held Aug. 7 to 9 in New York City, N.Y. Travel and attendance by Woodhouse and Thompson were sponsored by the National Retail Federation.

The symposium is designed for undergraduate professors from a range of academic backgrounds including economics, finance, business, marketing, technology and supply chain. The goal was to provide professors who do not currently teach retail classes with information about the changes and trends in the retail industry, and to give additional insights into the skills retailers desire when hiring graduates.

Retail executives have concerns that their companies will not be able to hire new talent with the skills needed to carry them in a forward direction. A focus of the conference was on the importance of data analytics in virtually every aspect of retail. Speakers emphasized that retail today has few boundaries and is driven by innovation, collaboration and technology.

Speakers on the first day of the conference included Daniel Cooney, director of product development for Kohl’s department stores; Mindy Grossman, CEO of HSN; Kathleen McLaughlin, chief sustainability officer at Walmart and president of the Walmart foundation; James Rhee, executive chairman and CEO of Ashley Stewart; Chris Silver, director of retail technology systems at Urban Outfitters, Inc.; and Kurt Kendall, vice president of consumer data and analytics for Under Armour.

On the second day, Woodhouse and Thompson participated in a panel discussion on retail hiring trends with the top hiring directors from Walmart, Urban Outfitters, Under Armour and Kohl’s. Hiring managers agreed that students entering a career need to have technology skills along with a combination of “IQ and EQ” in order to succeed. The two Catawba professors had the opportunity to meet the featured speakers and hiring managers during both days of the conference.

The conference was sponsored by SAS of Cary and the National Retail Federation.

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