UF Retail students pose for a photo in Times Square

Retail in the Big Apple

The David F. Miller Retail Center took its annual spring break trip to immerse 20 students into the world of retail in New York City.

The trip featured five days of touring retail stores, listening to lectures from company leadership, learning in fashion showrooms, and introducing students to jobs and internships in the retail industry.

“It made our students aware of areas of retail that perhaps they’ve never thought of,” Interim JCPenney Executive Director Betsy Goodman said. “It exposed students to retail in a major location like New York City while providing them with history of companies and the area as well.”

The tours allowed students to see what the industry looks like behind doors that are normally closed to the public. They were able to walk the store at JCPenney, which is new to New York City. Located in a vertical mall with a unique layout, it was an important trip for students to see how companies can open stores in unique locations. JCPenney also played an important role by providing a scholarship for each student participating in the trip.

Students later experienced a self-guided, walking tour through Macy’s, using a list of 10 points of interest around the store.

Meeting with The NPD Group, a retail research firm in the city, exposed students to a lecture from Executive Vice President Don Unser that served as an overview of the retail industry on their first day in New York. This set the stage for the entire week, and students were able to see his talking points come to life as they visited companies.

It also provided a clear picture for students to learn more about The NPD Group while beginning to consider internship and job opportunities with new companies.

“Listening to what the speakers had to say about the company they work for was the best part,” said UF student Andrea Dela Cruz, who was the Director of Communications for the trip. “Before coming on this trip, I did not really know about NPD and what they do. However, after listening to the speaker, I began to draw an interest in working for a company like them with data analytics and trend analysis. This trip opened new doors of opportunity, and I am interviewing with NPD for this summer.”

At Google, students were able to see the entire office and learned about its unique culture on a tour led by UF graduate Emily Kramer. Employees don’t maintain set hours and have free food available to them around the office, which takes up an entire city block. The building also features stations for employees to take naps if they get tired.

Trips to Tiffany & Co. and Lilly Pulitzer gave students an inside look at the jewelry and fashion industries. Tiffany & Co. Manager of Security Felipe Ortiz gave students a tour of the company’s VIP room and even allowed them to try on rings estimated at $20 million. The tour of Lilly Pulitzer mandated that students put their phones away before entering a room with clothing from their spring 2018 line that hasn’t been released to the public.

Students toured the showroom for Caleres, a shoe company that works with products by Fergie, Carlos Santana and Sam Edelman among others.

The exclusive tours provided students with opportunities to envision what their future roles in retail positions could look like.

“I learned that it takes a team of people to get the product to the customers,” Dela Cruz said. “We got to see a design team at work, showrooms where buyers would come in to pick merchandise for their stores and retail at work in a mall setting in the city. It was an incredible experience seeing the behind-the-scenes work of the retail industry.”

The New York City trip also allowed students to experience the sights and sounds of the Big Apple. Because of the Center’s close relationship with Walgreen Co., students were able to go on the roof of the company’s building and get pictures taken next to the New Year’s Eve ball in Times Square. They were able to learn through walking tours of the Financial District and Broadway, and some students purchased tickets to see shows. Along with a trip to Rockefeller Center, another highlight was a dinner at Dave & Buster’s, hosted by CFO and Warrington alumnus Joe DeProspero (BSBA-FIN ’95).

Students were also able to secure free tickets to a taping of the Harry Connick Jr. Show.

The trip’s popularity has required an additional week next year. In addition to the spring break trip, the Center will host a second trip to New York City in May 2018.

About the Miller Retail Center

  • Located in the Warrington College of Business and working within the University of Florida community, the David F. Miller Retail Center strives to develop tomorrow’s leaders by stimulating interest in retail centers, preparing students for entry-level management, providing continuing education opportunities, facilitating communications between retailers and academics, and researching retail issues and opportunities.