Thompson Rivers University

The World of Retail

October 27, 2015

In the market for a new course? Consider MKTG 4431: Retail Marketing.

In retail, nothing is sacred. Department-store dinosaurs return to rule, e-tailers branch out to bricks-and-mortar, consumers move from owning things to sharing things, and staid brands can somehow, improbably, find new markets. (Consider Levi’s: the hip choice of 2015.)

In keeping with an industry that is constantly reinventing itself, MKTG 4431: Retail Marketing, has been recently redesigned and brought up-to-date. Here, Open Learning Faculty Member Susan O’Conner talks about what’s new in the course and the world of retail.

Who would be interested in taking this course?
Retail really touches all industries. When a lot of people think of retailing, they think of going to buy products such as food, apparel, shoes, but retailing is also part of services such as banking, finance, telecommunications, even education – the same principles and practices apply. Because retail is such a large and diverse industry, it’s a critical part of the Canadian economy, and there are excellent career opportunities at the middle and senior management level.

We all buy things. Can we learn anything about our own behaviour as consumers by taking this course?
Yes. The feedback I get from students is that they realize they had no idea of what is really involved in retail, and they learn so much about it. The retail industry is 80-90% research and analysis – that’s before you finally get to the point where you’re going to offer your products or services to customers.

What kind of research is required?
Because the retail landscape is very different today than it was even five or ten years ago, successful retailers need to conduct research on a continual basis. They require insight into consumer behaviour, best practices in retailing, fast changing market, retail and consumer trends as well as technology advances and economic conditions. Most importantly retailers need to know and understand how it all ‘fits’ together and how to analyze and apply their research findings to their businesses.

How has this little thing called the Internet affected retail?
Retail has become very much about digital marketing. Bricks and mortar is still very important, but what we’re seeing is that retailers are downsizing, closing or redesigning their bricks and mortar environments because online sales have taken off dramatically. The shift to online has been phenomenal and those who haven’t moved into it are gone, and those who have moved into it are having to constantly rethink and strategize because it’s changing so quickly.

What interests you about this topic?
The retail industry continues its evolutionary growth. It is highly dynamic and innovative. It’s being driven by the new forms of technology that are having an impact on how and why people shop, so that in many cases you can now get higher-quality service online than in a brick and mortar store. For example, I can buy a shirt at Banana Republic, and the next day I’ll get an email with a picture of the shirt and a request to review the item on their website. Just as an example of how quickly this industry is changing: the textbook for this updated course was released in 2014, but even it contains material I don’t use because it is already out of date.

Retail is also a very political, volatile industry that is representative of contemporary global, social and ethical issues. Many years ago, MEC came along and said “we’re about the environment.” That is commonplace now, and every company has to be involved in social and ethical issues. Think about the factory that collapsed in Pakistan: hundreds of people were killed, and in the ensuing months, there were Canadian companies still in the media for failing to take action.

This is a fourth-level course; what are the prerequisites?
An introductory marketing course, such as BBUS 3431, is required. It doesn’t have to be ours, but you will need to be comfortable with basic principles and practises of marketing.

Read the course description for full details on this course.

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