Oct 07

Gain Skills To Lead In The Apparel Industry

This isn’t your traditional business degree. If you want to stand out in your field, consider the Master of Science in Retail Studies. The fully-online degree with a concentration in Global Apparel Retail Management is a professional development degree specific to the apparel industry.

“It’s targeting people who want to get the next level of their education but maybe want to stand out a little bit,” says Dr. Nancy Hodges, Burlington Industries Professor and Head of the CARS Department.

‘A Niche Business Program’

“We’re a business program, but we’re very much a niche business program,” Hodges says.

Students come to the program from all academic backgrounds. It’s a good way to break into the apparel and retail industries.

The program focuses on the many factors in the consumption of apparel and understanding the needs of its consumers. It focuses on factors specific to the apparel retail industry, such as its complicated global supply chain. 

The online concentration was developed by asking the companies that hire the program’s graduates what skills they desire. 

“We want to make sure that it’s relevant and current, that what we’re teaching is going to serve the students when they leave us and are in the workplace,” Hodges says.

Learn Industry-Specific Skills

Students don’t learn fashion design here — they can do that in the undergraduate program. The master’s program is about the business of apparel retailing, where they’ll gain skills to get products to the market and the consumer.

Students in the Global Apparel Retail Management concentration can expect to:

  • Serve mass merchandisers, such as Costco and Target; apparel-specific retailers like Belk and Macy’s; and specialty retail stores like Gap and J Crew
  • Understand and better predict consumer behaviors
  • Learn strategies used by retail companies to market to consumers
  • Understand merchandise buying and planning
  • Communicate across global boundaries

“You can’t just say, ‘Well, I like it, and so all 2 billion Walmart consumers are going to like it too,’” Hodges says. “That’s not how it works. There’s a lot about data analytics that has to be read for targeting specific consumers and buying merchandise and merchandising in ways to attract consumers.”

Hands-On Experience

An internship with an apparel retail company can fulfill the program’s required practicum, which can be a good way for students to get a foot in the door with apparel companies.

Students have interned at VF Corporation, Belk, TJX Companies, Neiman Marcus, and more. They’ve gotten jobs as buyers, merchandisers, and management trainees, all above entry-level positions, Hodges says.

Some have started their own businesses. Hodges gets calls from people who want to create a small start-up, selling T-shirts or golf apparel, and they don’t know what goes into the product, how to sell it, or how to get something produced. They learn the process in the program and apply it to creating their own businesses.

What Kinds of Courses Are There?

The program requires 30 hours of coursework, including a six-hour practicum. Students may take online electives within the Bryan School of Business and Economics, including supply chain management, marketing, or any MBA courses.

Sample courses include:

  • Apparel Brand Management
  • Analysis of Apparel and Related Industries
  • Retail Strategy

Making Connections Through Distance

Students connect online through discussion boards and Webex sessions, and under normal circumstances would be invited to campus for professional events. There are plenty of networking opportunities for these distance learners as well.

In addition to internships they may do for the practicum, students take advantage of connections with faculty.

“These are students who either want to break into the industry or want to move up in it and so they see the faculty as resources,” Hodges says. “We’re people who can help with connections, particularly in terms of internships but also in terms of building their research skills and their ability to identify and solve problems that their organizations face.”

Find out more about the Master of Science in Retail Studies by visiting the program page. A version of this blog was first published by UNCG Online.