DENTON (UNT), Texas -- Come Fall 2016, the University of North Texas will offer a new bachelor's degree in retailing to address a critical shortage in the industry: future leaders ready to tackle retail's evolving needs. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board recently approved the degree, making UNT the first university in the U.S. to bridge the gap between the three primary components of retail: merchandising, digital and operations.
"The goal has always been for UNT to be a center for excellence for the complete retail platform," said Judith Forney, dean of the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, which will house the program in the Department of Merchandising and Digital Retailing. "Adding retail as the last component will allow our college to develop talent across the full industry."
The department currently offers bachelor's degrees in merchandising, home furnishing merchandising or digital retailing. The addition of retailing offers a focus on operations and analytics to support selling merchandise for a profit. This new major opens up new career opportunities in the retail industry. Students will also take a departmental core across all the programs and can double major.
Forney added that the educational experience will focus on an omni-channel approach to retail that allows customers to shop seamlessly between the physical store and electronic devices, and that breaks down the silos between the in-store operations and the behind-the-scenes work.
Industry experts say the approach is needed.
"It is critical for our industry that universities help us to develop talent that will shape retail's future," said CEO and Chairman of The Container Store Kip Tindell, who is also chairman of the National Retail Federation board. "As a national retailer based in the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex, we applaud the University of North Texas for establishing a retail operations bachelor's degree that will complement their existing merchandising and digital programs."
At an April 2015 meeting of the Board of Governors for UNT's Department of Merchandising and Digital Retailing, members stressed the need for top-level employees who understand the complexities of the global marketplace, can adapt to endless technology changes, and are able to react swiftly to consumer expectations and engagements.
Forney noted that despite the growth of digital sales, the brick-and-mortar store is here to stay; however, "the retail store experience has changed dramatically, and the skill sets that successful retailers need are very different from those in the past."
As the retail sector continues to grow in the U.S. and Texas, the demand for talent will only increase. More than 28 million, or one out of every four jobs in the U.S., is in retail, which makes up 16 percent of the U.S. economy. That's according to a 2014 economic impact report from the National Retail Federation. In Texas, retail is the No. 1 industry and 10 of the top 100 retail companies in the U.S. have headquarters in the state.
Applications are currently being accepted for the Bachelor of Science Degree Program with a Major in Retailing. Classes will start Fall 2016. For more information about the program, contact Kelly Ayers, director of advising for the College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, at Kelly.Ayers@unt.edu or 940-565-4635.