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College of Hospitality, Retail and Sport Management

  • Six students pose together for a photo at the NRF conference in New York City.

Retailing students experience NYC with industry leaders as their guides

The first semester of 2024 began with tremendous excitement for more than three dozen students in the University of South Carolina Department of Retailing.

The students spent most of that week in New York City, attending the National Retail Federation (NRF) national student conference and meeting industry leaders in private opportunities available only to USC students.

The trip was spearheaded by the USC Department of Retailing and the USC chapter of the National Retail Federation Student Association.

The students, joined by several College of HRSM faculty and staff members, began their New York experience with a tour of Maggy London headquarters. The tour and a panel discussion with Maggy London executives was led by Sara Bako, president of London Times/Maggy London and a Department of Retailing alumna and advisory board member.

Students sit around a table listening to executives talk about leadership during the NRF conference.

"The best part of this trip was going to Maggy London and getting to know more of the behind the scenes of wholesaling and how they create products," says student Tyler Dunlap. "They create patterns of the products. They get to know the consumer and figure out where those products go, what stores they go to, and it was very interesting, I loved it."

The next exclusive opportunity was at Hugo Boss Headquarters. Hugo Boss Senior Vice President, Wholesale Matt Sanders, another Department of Retailing Advisory Board member, welcomed the students and took them behind the scenes of the company's operations.

"It's always inspiring to see such an engaged and articulate group," Sanders says. "Their passion and excitement for all things Fashion is truly contagious. I look forward to following their respective journeys as they unfold."

Following a break that included a chance for many students to take their first subway ride, the group gathered at the Ralph Lauren flagship store, (the Women's Mansion and Men's Mansion) to be welcomed by Senior Vice President of Stores and Chair for Diversity and Inclusion Sharonda Weatherspoon.

We got to hear from all of their (Ralph Lauren) top executives on their passion and love for the industry, as well as how much they’re passionate about changing the industry to make it more sustainable and to keep the industry going for many more years.

Julia Rothman, Retailing Student Advisory Board Chair
Julia Rothman headshot

Weatherspoon led a panel discussion with other high-ranking Ralph Lauren executives, covering topics including strategic planning and business development, asset protection, diversity and inclusion, sustainability, tips on standing out when starting a career, and much more.

"We got to hear from all of their top executives on their passion and love for the industry, as well as how much they're passionate about changing the industry to make it more sustainable and to keep the industry going for many more years," says student Julia Rothman.

A guided tour of both mansions followed, including a chance to see private rooms set aside for celebrity guests to do personalized shopping and even a chance to try on some of the best of Ralph Lauren’s current line.

On Friday, the NRF Foundation Student Program 2024 began, with 1,125 students, 145 educators, 112 mentors, 40 speakers and over 150 recruiters.

  • Students listen to a presentation from a member of the Ralph Lauren team
  • Students listen to Sara Bako with Maggie London while attending the NRF conference


Students heard from industry leaders, including some rising stars who attended the program as students as little as three years ago.

"Trust yourself," said Julie Averill, chief technology officer at lululemon when asked what advice she would give her younger self. "Allow yourself to be creative. Allow yourself to open doors as they come to you, because they will come to you — and where you are right now, you can’t predict what those doors are."

The conference also included a job fair with recruiters from many of the industry's leading companies.

"My favorite part about this trip so far was just being there in person with a bunch of future colleagues," says student Sophia Dudley. "The potential of the new connections that we created is just so invaluable."

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