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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management


Career Journey image of Caroline Riffel

Career journey: Caroline Riffel

I started working for Belk at the company’s Charlotte headquarters right after graduation and am currently a merchandise planner in the women’s shoes category.

By Caroline Riffel
Posted on April 8, 2019

My career journey began in January 2016, when I attended the NRF Conference Student Program in New York City with my U101 co-lead professor and mentor, Erica Elbery. Their career fair afforded me the opportunity to meet with various retail companies. I was immediately drawn to Belk, and after several interviews I was hired into their Executive Training (ET) program in Charlotte, N.C.

Upon graduation from ET, I was hired as an assistant planner in women’s ready-to-wear. The role quickly transitioned to allocation analyst, where I expanded my knowledge of retail and gained a more in-depth perspective of planning. In December 2017, I was excited to be offered a promotion to planner in ladies shoes.

As a planner, I partner with buyers to produce in-depth financial analysis of our business. I maximize gross margin dollars in our departments by capitalizing on promotional strategies and validating the productivity and profitability of future buys. As the primary lead in our monthly forecast process, I project metrics of the business to uncover opportunities we have in-season. It is so rewarding to be in a crucial decision-making position that can positively affect Belk and ultimately my fellow employees.

The relationships I formed at USC in the College of HRSM with professors and administration gave me the leadership skills and confidence necessary to propel myself into the retail management world. My internships with Spanx and fab’rik afforded me valuable experience and insight into the inner world of corporate retail. And now, continued networking opportunities at Belk have introduced me to many inspirational people who have shown me how hard work, dedication and a willing spirit to take on any challenge can propel me toward my goals and down an exciting career path!

My advice to South Carolina students is to get involved with your college. Take every opportunity to network and get to know your professors and administrators. They are your key to success and can open up a world of career opportunities for you. Look for internship opportunities and immerse yourself in the business. Study abroad to expand your perspective and waste no opportunities to grow, learn and connect with those around you. You never know where it could lead!


The Career Journey story series shares a glimpse into the dynamic jobs of our alumni, how they got to where they are today, and their advice for the next generation — in their own words. Share your career journey story by emailing hrsmcomm@mailbox.sc.edu.