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NRF Foundation and American Express Announce Winners of Fifth Annual Intercollegiate Retail Challenge

For Immediate Release
Shari Brown or Kathy Grannis (1-855-NRF-PRESS)
browns@nrf.com or grannisk@nrf.com

NRF Foundation and American Express Announce Winners of Fifth Annual Intercollegiate Retail Challenge
-Six Students from Around the Country Win $2,500 Scholarships-

Washington, January 3, 2013 – The NRF Foundation and American Express today announced the winners of their annual Aspire2Retail Intercollegiate Challenge, which is designed to increase understanding of diverse career paths in retail by engaging university students in a competitive, collaborative role play that involves implementing a multi-tiered business strategy.

This year, the challenge required students to describe all aspects of showrooming and outline the threats and opportunities that come with it. Showrooming is described as the practice of shoppers comparing retailers’ store prices to other companies’ online prices and choosing to purchase the item online from a different company. The students had to collaborate on a comprehensive marketing strategy, aimed at addressing showrooming and were instructed to propose customer service practices that enhance loyalty and maximize the use of the latest technological advancements. A financial, merchandising, and retail operations plan also had to be produced to complete and pass the challenge.

“Retailers have to move fast to keep pace with customers’ demands, and every business unit – from marketing to merchandising to IT – plays a huge role in addressing showrooming behavior,” said NRF Foundation Executive Director Ellen Davis. “This year’s challenge was a real example of something that retail companies are dealing with every day. We are thrilled to honor the winning team for their work and dedication to this project, and look forward to seeing each student grow in their academics and professional careers in retail.”

Jerry O’Brien, director of Kohl’s Department Stores Center for Retailing Excellence at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, led this year’s winning team. The students who made up the winning team include:

•    Hillary Haskins, Florida State University
•    Reannah Haselden, Georgia Southern University
•    Narisa Montero, University of Arizona
•    Sabrina Occiur, University of Florida
•    Panama Marquand, University of Michigan
•    Nicole VanDyke, University of Wisconsin-Madison

Each student will receive an educational scholarship worth $2,500 thanks to generous contributions from Sears Holdings Corporation, Macy’s, and Toys“R”Us, Inc. The winning students also receive complimentary registration to Retail’s BIG Show in New York City, where they will present their award-winning business plan to attendees on Monday, January 14 at 3:15 p.m. during the session, “Showrooming: An Opportunity or a Threat?

The program, established in 2006, pairs students from six retail programs across the country together to solve a business-case scenario. Each student selects a different business discipline, and is mentored by a retail executive in that field. Students then present their solution to a panel of judges, who scored the presentations on creativity, relevance, and understanding of the challenge topic.
Participating retailer and industry experts that were involved in mentoring and judging the student presentations include:

•    Cheryl Berinato, Macy’s, Inc.
•    Ellen Davis, NRF Foundation
•    Derek Lounsbury, Toys“R”Us, Inc.
•    Thomas McCurtain, Sears Holdings Corporation
•    Herman Nell, Petco
•    Kristen Sanders, The Container Store
•    Lori Schafer, SAS
•    Omar Segura, Sears Holdings Corporation
•    Kacey Sharrett, Toys“R”Us, Inc.
•    Lydia Schulz, American Express Company
•    Vito Spano, Dick’s Sporting Goods
•    Mark Williams, Best Buy

About American Express

American Express is a global services company, providing customers with access to products, insights and experiences that enrich lives and build business success.  Global Merchant Services is the merchant network of American Express, which acquires and maintains relationships with millions of merchants around the world that welcome American Express-branded Cards.  Learn more at americanexpress.com and connect with us on facebook.com/americanexpress, foursquare.com/americanexpress, linkedin.com/companies/american-express, twitter.com/americanexpress, and youtube.com/americanexpress.  Key links to products and services:  charge and credit cards, business credit cards, travel services, gift cards, prepaid cards, merchant services, business travel, and corporate card.

The NRF Foundation promotes retailing as an attractive career path while developing and cultivating the next generation of retail leaders through partnerships with universities, professional certification programs, and workforce training. Through its research and education initiatives, the NRF Foundation provides data and information about the importance of retail to the economy. It also oversees the Ray M. Greenly scholarship fund, which provides scholarships to deserving college students nationwide. The NRF Foundation is the 501(c)(3) nonprofit arm of the National Retail Federation and is funded in part by generous donations from retail industry supporters. www.nrffoundation.com.