February 2017 | By: Lawrence J. Ring

Estimated reading time: Estimated Reading Time: 3 minutes

Key Takeaways

  1. Now in its 34th year, the Strategic Planning and Management in Retailing Program will be held at the College of William and Mary from April 29–May 5, 2017
  2. Past program participants hailed from a wide variety of retail sectors and included several senior level-executives, including CEOs
  3. The program mix includes a blend of in-depth case studies, faculty lectures, store tours, and hands-on analysis of a multichannel shopping experience

The Strategic Planning and Management in Retailing Program was conducted in Wellesley, Massachusetts, at Babson College in September 2016. This year is the 34th for the program which has been offered since 1983 (the first three years were at the University of Toronto). Retailing executives attending this year’s class represented seven countries. After 34 years, the program continues to be very popular. This program is offered annually twice in North America (at Babson College and at the College of William and Mary) and once in Singapore (hosted by the Retail Academy of Singapore). The program is next scheduled to be offered April 29–May 5, 2017, at the College of William and Mary. Those interested are encouraged to apply early. For more information, please visit

The program kicked off with “The Eight Ways to Win in Retailing,” and featured cases on Fast Retailing Group (Uniqlo), Target Stores (2006, 2009, and 2015), Midwest Markets, Burberry Ltd., T. J. Maxx, and Sephora. The Burberry case featured the company’s award-winning use of digital technology in its stores. The T. J. Maxx case was paired with a new article on store positioning using perceptual mapping and an article about the company in Fortunemagazine. The Sephora case focused on the use and evaluation of social media in retailing. The Fast Retailing/Uniqlo case traced the strategic evolution of Uniqlo from a small Japanese men’s shop to worldwide competitor to Zara, H&M, and Gap. Particular attention was paid to the company’s culture and its CEO’s “change or die” philosophy. In addition, the faculty delivered lectures and exercises on financial and productivity analysis, strategic thinking and planning, category scorecards, customer relationship management, and customer and associate satisfaction.

On Wednesday afternoon, September 21, the group participated in a store tour with visits to BJ’s Wholesale Club, Target, Ulta Beauty, Whole Foods Market, Shopper’s World Power Center (including Best Buy, DSW, Toys “R” Us, Barnes and Noble, T.J. Maxx, Sports Authority, and others), and the Natick Mall (Nordstrom, Neiman Marcus, Macy’s, Lord and Taylor, Sears, JCPenney, Zara, H&M, and numerous other specialty stores). The highlight of the trip was our visit and guided tour of recently renovated Jordan’s Furniture and its IMAX Theater.

We introduced a new feature to the program in September 2012 and it is now a staple of the program: that was our multichannel shoe shopping exercise. For 2016, we changed it to a multichannel beauty shopping exercise. It was incorporated into our store tour activities, described above. This exercise was designed to analyze shopping experiences in different channels. Participants compared the following shopping channels in the beauty category:

  1. Shopping through search engines (Google)
  2. Shopping via retail websites
  3. Shopping via traditional bricks and mortar stores

Participants visited several sites online, including Nordstrom, Macy’s, Sephora, Ulta, and MAC. They evaluated the online sites on a variety of criteria and then visited the “bricks and mortar” stores and compared the “clicks” with the “bricks” for each.

Program participants represented seven countries: The United States, Denmark, Netherlands, New Zealand, Panama, Portugal, and South Africa. The participants came from companies in a wide variety of retail sectors, and the class was composed of senior-level executives, including several CEOs, representing all the functions of a retail organization. Professors Larry Ring, John Strong, and Ron Hess were the primary program faculty for each of the programs.