The COVID-19 pandemic has turned the global retail industry upside down. Scott Hessell, director of the Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, wants students to study and understand the current reality while also thinking about the future.
The Lundgren Scholars program, new in 2020-21, will offer students an opportunity to do just that, an even “deeper dive” into retail issues and trends and present research conclusions that will also “contribute to the greater knowledge,” Hessell said.
The first Lundgren Scholars program cohort includes seniors Abby Pennix and Alexa Tuttle and junior Mireya Quiroz. They will each be able to use a $5,000 stipend over the academic year toward research into a retail subject of their choice.
UArizona alumnus Terry J. Lundgren, retired Chairman and CEO of Macy’s, Inc., and members of the center’s external advisory board will serve as program mentors, and Pennix, Tuttle, and Quiroz will present their projects in April at the virtual Global Retail Ideas Summit.
“The idea is that they work a service or research project over the full year, and it’s based on some interest or passion they have but is wrapped around retailing and brands,” Hessell said. “It’s not just something for their own sake, but asking, how can I contribute; how can I lift the boat?”
Pennix, a retailing and consumer sciences major, will be researching the sneaker resale market, focusing on how culture and social media can influence retail.
“With the growing popularity of sneaker culture and the incredible markup value of certain sneakers, I felt this was an interesting market,” she said. “I would consider myself a budding ‘sneakerhead’ so I have seen the market firsthand and want to inform other professionals about this form of retail.”
Tuttle decided to research sustainability in fashion and create a consumer’s guide to socially responsible shopping and develop a video.
“The goal of my project is to get consumers to care about sustainability in the fashion industry and to encourage them to shop sustainably,” said Tuttle, a retailing and consumer sciences major. “This concept was inspired by the issue that I feel many consumers my age have expressed, which is that we get discouraged to shop sustainably because we have to go out of our way to do research. Customers like convenience and transparency.”
Quiroz is a studio art major from the College of Fine Arts. She learned about the Lundgren Scholars program after a Zoom presentation to her class by Liz Marsalla, senior program coordinator at the Lundgren Center.
Her project is a video series that breaks down the “artist value chain” and looks at why it can be difficult for artists to get a job in their field, and at ways to make jobs more accessible for graduates in the virtual age.
“What inspired me to apply to the Lundgren Scholars program was the opportunity to gain retail, leadership, business, and communications skills,” Quiroz said. “I hope this project will inspire artists like myself to do more research and planning in regard to the way they promote their creations.”
Hessell would like to expand the program in the next few years, drawing students like Quiroz who come from different colleges.
“That’s the thing about retail is that students from a whole host of majors across campus have a role in it,” Hessell said. “If you want to be in a certain profession—psychology, biochemistry, engineering, computer sciences, nutritional sciences, fine arts, retail is impacted by so many of them.”