It may be safe to say that we all buy things. Considering that we live in the digital age, sometimes we purchase from real brick and mortar shops and sometimes we may have made our purchases online. Retail is no longer the sole domain of the face-to-face experience.

Clearly, the Retail sector is facing a formidable challenge from the virtual world which it must address sooner than later.  To top it all, customers have come to expect a generally pleasant shopping experience that includes choice, value, sales person knowledge, proper ambient temperature, pleasant background music and timely service.

What response can Retail unleash against the 24/7 fury of online. Oh! So much. The battle between Showrooming and Webrooming has long commenced. 

To begin with, Retailers can also go on-line and nothing stops them from having a virtual presence. This of course does not do much for the price differential that lures customers in filling their cart from foreign sites. The struggle is a bit like Roman gladiators where each had different weapons to fight with.

One big advantage that physical retail has over online is the opportunity to interact directly in a face-to-face situation with the customer. Then there is the opportunity to display goods in a much better and visually more attractive way than what we see online. Retail skills are essential to achieve maximum leverage in what is essentially a problem solving opportunity for the visiting customer in a shop. These skills include courtesy, hospitality, respect, listening well, sales assistant’s product knowledge and other such soft skills that customers expect.

Should young people choose a career in Retail? In my opinion the answer is a qualified why not! If one thinks that opening a shop will itself bring in customers then this spells ruin. On the other hand, entering this industry armed with at least a clear business plan and strategy, the appropriate retail skills, a complementary web presence and a commitment to capitalize on evolving technology that includes the Internet will help to achieve business success. In the end, sales and return business are highly dependent on a strong and unique physical customer experience that only the retailer can offer every time a customer is in a shop.

MCAST has recognized this retailing opportunity and has from this year started to offer an Advanced Diploma program in Fashion and Retail pegged at MQF Level 4. The program provides students with an understanding of textile fibres, garment design, manufacturing and quality control. Additionally, the program prepares students with the business skills necessary to run a retail business such as book keeping, marketing, customer service, IT and entrepreneurship. Above all however, the program includes a period of Apprenticeship during which students get direct hand-on experience in the Fashion and Retail industry. At the end of the program MCAST students are given the opportunity to display their learning through a final Fashion Design Project. 

Knowledge and education is the key to the future. In Benjamin Franklin’s own words “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest”.

Anthony Padovani

Deputy Director Programme Management
MCAST Technical College