CHIPLEY — The second most successful business in Florida, behind tourism, is the retail business — and the Retail Center at Florida State University in Tallahassee is leading the nation in training young professionals for a career in the retail field.
“These students are on-purpose students,” said center director Ann K. Langston. “That means they chose to study retail, they aren’t there by accident.”
Like success in retail, it takes training and planning to make future retailers, Langston told the Washington County Chamber of Commerce members on Thursday.
“Retail moves very quickly, and we are always updating our curriculum,” Langston said. “We try to be responsive to the industry.”
The Retail Merchandising and Product Development Department and Center at FSU was created in 2006 and is the premier center of its kind. Housed in the College of Human Sciences, the RMPD department provides a channel for communications and exchange between the retail and retail-related industries and FSU’s RMPD majors and affiliated faculty, according to a release about the program.
“The Center creates partnerships among retail and retail-related businesses and FSU students and faculty to promote education, research and service; offering an educated, qualified work force; sponsored research opportunities in areas of interest; and expertise to help it meet its targeted needs,” according to the release.
The Center also holds an annual Retail Summit, Langston said, and works with corporate sponsors such as JCPenney, HSN and Macy’s among others to develop retail programs.
Langston said that according to her research, Chipley alone generates $169,785,000 annually in retail sales, with 40 percent of that amount being spent on general merchandise. One in four jobs in our economy are found in retail, she said.
“That is the kind of impact retail has on our economy,” Langston said. “so it is important to keep our students and faculty up-to-date on the industry.”
Langston also discussed the “Millennial Generation,” those born between 1980 and 2000, and their impact on the workplace.
“This is a huge generation coming up, and they will change our economy,” she said. Langston also said the Millennial Generation’s reliance on technology not only changes the way members of this group shop, but the way retailers present merchandise to attract these customers.
“They like shopping solutions, they want decisions made for them,” Langston said, using outfits – complete ensembles including everything from jewelry to clothing to shoes — as an example of Millennial marketing. Millennial shoppers look for an experience as much as an item, and they want to be able to checkout quickly.
“This is the generation that taps its foot while waiting on the microwave,” Langston said, jokingly.