Eighty retail real estate executives from CBRE recently gained the distinction of being the first class to graduate from a course designed to give field professionals a deeper knowledge of rapidly evolving retail business models and how they influence site selection.
The online course offered by the University of Arizona’s Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing (TJLC), involves four months of immersion into the challenges faced by retailers in such areas as product assortment, customer engagement, supply chain, merchandising, and sourcing.
Veteran leasing professional Lisa Stoddard, an executive VP in CBRE’s Washington, D.C., office, was a member of the inaugural class, and despite decades plying her craft, found the experience to be eye-opening.
“We’re typically focusing on things through a real estate lens, but flipping it over and looking at it from a retailer’s perspective allows us to be better advisors,” she observed. “There’s never been so much disruption at retail, and the course was very thought-provoking.”
And sleep-depriving, as well. The college-level course forced some adjustments in these busy executives’ schedules, but those who spoke to Chain Store Age about the experience said they were glad they made the commitment.
“It was tough incorporating work and life and the course. Sometimes you had four hours of reading. We weren’t getting grades. You got out of it what you put into it, so I got into a groove,” said Scott Siegel, a VP in CBRE’s Ventura County, California, office. “One thing I learned that really hit home with me was how the supply chain affects a retailer’s success. It’s literally become an arms race, because the quicker you can get your product on the shelf, the greater the chance you’re going to win in that category.”
The course is comprised of eight modules divided into customer-facing and operations-facing areas. While students are expected to complete it in four months, it’s delivered online and they can take it at their own pace. Lundgren Center director Scott Hessell designed the curriculum and delivered its online tutorials. Veteran retailers from companies including Home Depot, Dick’s Sporting Goods, PetSmart, and J.C. Penney served as advisors to the CBRE class.
“Doing large classes such as this one from CBRE allows us to make the program more company-specific. It would be very expensive to get this group of executives together in one location to take such a course,” said Hessell, who added that the TJLC last month hired an associate director of executive education to bring the course to more companies hungry for retail insight.
Some of those insights come not from Hessell or University of Arizona faculty, but from the students themselves.
“We had 80 CBRE people involved from all across the country, ranging from some who’d just started to the top broker in the company,” Siegel noted. “To be able to work across the company like this and hear everyone’s input was an incredible opportunity.”