Marketing students visit downtown businesses to learn from the best

Published 12:00 am Sunday, March 18, 2018

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — For Stitchin’ Post Gifts sales associate Misty McDaniel, business is personal. McDaniel uses her own life experiences to relate to customers and listens to their stories to help them find the perfect item. It’s a lesson she hammered home to South Rowan High School students Wednesday morning.

“It’s not just about if everybody else has got it,” she said about products. “It’s about what it means to you.”

Dozens of students spent the day in the Stitchin’ Post and other downtown shops to learn the business ropes from experienced professionals. The students were part of Kresen Whitmarsh’s fashion merchandising class at South Rowan.

Whitmarsh said she’s been looking for better ways to teach the slower parts of the curriculum, and for ways to give students some hands-on experience in the field.

“Kids learn best whenever they’re in action,” she said.

Usually, when the class reaches the pricing and merchandising portion of the curriculum, students find it boring or have trouble paying attention. But this year’s partnership with downtown Salisbury businesses is helping bring a little life to usually dry concepts.

“They can connect what they were doing to what’s on the test,” Whitmarsh said of the day.

Starting at 10 a.m., groups worked in the stores, helping dress mannequins, price items, stock the store and decorate.

“We did everything but show them how to run a register,” McDaniel said with a chuckle.

McDaniel and other sales associates at Stitchin’ Post Gifts gathered students around displays and talked them through design elements, stocking and demand. McDaniel herded a group of girls around a bracelet display and asked them to think about why a customer might be looking for this particular item — after all, she said, people don’t just buy products because they’re popular; they buy things with meaning.

“I like to encourage them to look at things in a different perspective,” she said.

For students, it was a rare look behind the scenes at business.

“It taught me a lot about having your own business,” ninth grader Carlie Moore said.

And while she said she had fun designing mannequin outfits, some things she learned were surprising — like the threat shoplifting poses to small businesses. Stitchin’ Post Gifts and other local businesses have to deal with their fair share of shoplifters, McDaniel said, and those small losses stack up over time to do real damage.

But there are some good things. Stitchin’ Post Gifts has been in business for more than 40 years, and in that time the staff have become tightly knit.

“They’re like a family,” Moore said.

And seeing the ins and out of the business has Moore thinking about starting her own.

“Seeing stuff like this makes me consider it,” she said.

But students weren’t the only ones who benefited from the partnership. It was also a chance for business owners to pick the brains of up-and-coming customers.

“We needed the feedback from them on what they’re out looking for,” McDaniel said.

Students also partnered with Caniche, Lora Belle Baby, AnnaCraig Boutique, 3 jem’s boutique and Ultimate Sports Apparel. It’s the first time South Rowan has partnered with downtown businesses.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.