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Massey’s first retail graduates hit the market

Sarah Gichard, Anika Maikoo, Laura Scanlon and Maddie McClean – the first students to graduate from Massey's Bachelor of Retail and Business Management.

At the start of her second year of study, Maddie McClean transferred into Massey’s new Bachelor of Retail and Business Management, New Zealand’s first degree programme focused solely on retail. Today, she was one of the first students to graduate with the new qualification and she couldn’t be happier she made the switch.

“After first year, it was time to lock in a major and I didn’t feel settled about my choices, so I looked through all my options,” Maddie says.

“What stood out for me about the Bachelor of Retail and Business Management was its consistent linking to industry – the theory supported the practical, rather than the other way around.”

For Professor Jonathan Elms, who moved to New Zealand to establish Massey’s retail programme, it is the culmination of four years of work. 

“It’s amazing to see how much the students have transformed themselves from the beginning of the programme until now – their confidence, their analytical skills, how they present themselves,” he says. 

“Our objectives when the degree was established have all been achieved – we’ve produced employable, work-ready graduates who have a good understanding of the industry and its connections to other disciplines. It’s really good to see how commercially confident they are.”

Professor Jonathan Elms, the Sir Stephen Tindall Chair in Retail Management and head of Massey's retail programme.

Degree aims to address a retail skills shortage

The retail sector directly employs around 300,000 New Zealanders and makes a huge contribution to the New Zealand economy, Professor Elms says. 

“The NZ retail sector achieved $83 billion in sales in 2016 and more than 10 per cent of those sales are now online – and growing. You can see how dynamic that makes the industry so we are working to filll some major skills gaps, especially in retail management, buying and merchandising and digital.”

Maddie, who was recently employed by Foodstuffs as a category assistant, is proof not only that retail skills are in demand, but that a tertiary retail qualification has value. 

“The degree introduced me to many roles in the support side of retail that I wasn’t even aware of, and my experience spending a day with The Warehouse and Warehouse Stationery CEO Pejman Okhovat shifted my perception of corporate retail, inspiring me to work in that type of environment. 

“The skills I learnt definitely gave me a platform to apply for my role at Foodstuffs and made me a viable candidate, but something I also gleaned through my experiences within the degree was a passion for the industry, which is what I believe made me stand out when going for the role.” 

With around 180 students currently enrolled in the Bachelor of Retail and Business Management, Professor Elms believes the programme is doing its bit to professionalise the sector.

“We have worked hard to change perceptions around retail employment and making retail a career of choice,” he says. “There is so much more to retail than working on the shop floor and there’s some very specific knowledge required. 

“A general business degree teaches marketing, research and strategy, but very little on logistics, supply chain management, buying and merchandising. That’s been a big gap because you can promise the consumer the world through marketing, but if you can’t actually deliver the goods, you have no business.”

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