Course Descriptions

Store Brands Are Everywhere

An overview of store brands development in the U.S. and internationally, this session outlines the historic arc of the industry. Store brands, products that are marked with the retailer's name or proprietary brand, represent quality and performance, and are offered in almost every food and non-food category. Starting with products that were as good as or better than national brands, and at lower prices, they have evolved into premium and destination offerings at many chains throughout the country. They have never been more popular. In 2022, reports Circana, one of every five items sold in all retail outlets across the country was a private brand, and both dollar and unit shares as well as annual revenue were at all-time highs. Market basket comparison studies regularly conducted by PLMA consistently reveal that shoppers save one-third on typical grocery items by opting for store brands over national brands. For store brand products, chains turn to manufacturers who supply high quality items across the board, from ingredients and packaging to labeling. Thousands of companies in hundreds of categories, many of whom are exhibiting at this trade show, supply products to retailers of all sizes.

In Store Brand Strategy, Nine Becomes One

Developing any brand is a strategic endeavor. Working with store brands has additional considerations. In this session, you’ll learn the nine strategies to contemplate as you work to grow store brands -- quality, pricing, merchandising, sourcing, omnichannel, marketing, design, packaging, and loyalty. Small groups will discuss and evaluate how these components interact towards a common goal and they will be asked to grade a specific retail company on how it is faring in this essential business process.

Innovation in Product & Packaging

Never have stakes been set higher for retailers to leverage innovation and product development and differentiate their brands as a means of generating shopper excitement and loyalty. But where does innovation start within retailing organizations; how is innovation translated into products and the retailer’s brands; what roles do private label suppliers play, and how do retailers manage product development processes for everyday products as well as new and innovative items? What are the blocks to successfully innovating within private label and how can success be measured? We will examine what it means to innovate private label by examining approaches from retailers here and abroad. Case studies provide insights for teams creating strategies and execution plans to launch new products and product lines.

Retail Consumer Psychology

In a noisy marketplace with more variety than ever before, how do you motivate retail customers to spurn others and select your products from the shelf? This session will apply scientifically proven, fundamental principles of consumer psychology to understand how product perceptions, preferences, choice, and satisfaction are influenced by branding, package design and retail merchandising. Participants will learn easy and affordable strategies to attract a target audience and positively influence consumer decision-making.

Store Tours

Store tours provide a unique opportunity to learn firsthand about the marketing of private brand products. Students will engage in big picture thinking around the multifaceted strategic and tactical approaches retailers employ to deliver value to consumers. The review will be conducted in several prominent Chicago area retailers who are reputable local merchants as well as companies with a national presence. Students’ post-tour observations, comments and insights will be shared in a debriefing session moderated by an industry expert.

Key takeaways include, Identify, assess and critique their value proposition; Examine how the retailer's brand positions itself versus the national brand equivalent; Evaluate the retailer’s merchandising presentation, shelf position/allocation, pricing, packaging design, messaging and imagery; From the lens of the consumer, discover exciting products, promotions and signage, and, From these observations, formulate an opinion on the strategic positioning of the private brand.

Product Ideation Workshop

In this session, participants will organize and apply what they learned across previous sessions to practice the art of consumer-centric product ideation. Key to this process is identifying a target audience as well as understanding consumer needs and preferences. Additionally, participants will need to consider building into this process the development methodology, including manufacturer and retailer processes and limitations. Students will take a team-based approach that will exercise their newly acquired expertise and skill in product development.

Creating a Career That You Love

Discover and unlock your true potential in the dynamic retail industry. This engaging one-hour session will guide you in preparing for a successful career journey. Explore your passions and interests. Learn innovative ways to leverage your skills and experiences gained throughout college. Find fulfillment and reward in the retail industry by intertwining your passions with your knowledge and unique abilities.

Harnessing the Power of AI in Retail and Manufacturing

The landscape of competition is evolving due to resource constraints and innovation that is changing exponentially.  Explore the practical applications of AI in Retail and Manufacturing to understand how this innovation can optimize supply chain management, improve customer experiences, and enhance operational efficiency. Discover real-world success stories and expert insights to implement AI effectively in your organization.  This session will equip you with actionable strategies and valuable knowledge to stay competitive in the evolving landscape of AI technology.

Experiential Learning

In this session, students will combine what they learned in the seminars with what they experience on the store tours. They will work in teams to combine and present their thoughts on "lessons learned".

The Animal Cookie Career

This presentation will follow the product lifecycle of animal cracker cookies from inception through production and in-store/on-shelf placement. The intent is to show all the various roles within the organization that touch this product before it ends up in a consumer’s shopping cart. To support this, as we touch on each role that is needed in this process, we will highlight competencies and nuances of these roles to show two key things: 1.) that what’s often on paper for a job description, ends up being a much deeper, richer experience and how to ask the right questions to get to this information; and 2.) the key competencies needed for success.