UNL students explore international retailing


Textile majors are required to take a course on international retailing before graduation. The department hopes the course will prepare the students for an increasingly global market.

Story and photo by Jessica Heerten

Students will learn to look critically at international retailing practices in a new senior-level class offered through the University of Nebraska-Lincoln’s textile department.

The 400-level course, called workshop seminar, is required for graduating seniors. The course reflects the department’s goal to become more globally minded.

“The world is changing, and we need to change too. We need classes that will reflect these changes,” Young Ha, curriculum chair of the textiles department, said.
The new course will look at how companies across the world address cultural differences, outsourcing and international regulations, as well as exit and expansion strategies.

New faculty member Shubha Bennur will teach the course. “International perspective is very important,” Bennur said. After graduation “students will not only be working in domestic, but also international markets.”

The class follows a lecture format and includes a research aspect. Students will analyze case studies and offer their own solutions for global issues companies face.

Bennur gave an example of the type of case studies students will examine. Wal-Mart, she said, was successful in entering the markets in some countries but not in others. She expects students to use what they learn to answer the question of why this happened.

This real-world application is exactly what senior Alycia Nielsen appreciates about the class. As a fashion design major, she’s only taken one other merchandising course but can see how this one will be beneficial.

She’d like to work in fashion design, Nielsen said, but in Nebraska, she thinks it would be easier to find an entry-level job in merchandising. International retailing will broaden her knowledge of the field.

The course fills a curriculum gap in the textiles department. Faculty members from the University of Delaware and the University of Tennessee reviewed UNL’s fashion design and merchandising programs last year. Both colleges have highly respected and ever-growing textiles departments.

One suggestion that came out of the review was to remove a social psychology class. The department offers two of these courses, a 200-level class called clothing and human behavior and a 400-level class called social psychology of appearance. Few other colleges offer more than one.

Instead, the reviewers recommended adding an additional merchandising course.

This fit with the ideas the department’s own curriculum committee had. Various merchandising courses touched on global issues, but no one class gave the topic in-depth coverage the department felt was deserved.

“Sometimes students here in Nebraska don’t have much experience outside Nebraska or the United States,” Ha said. “But before students graduate, they need to know what going on in the international markets.”

However, until Bennur arrived this fall, the department didn’t have a professor with the expertise required. Bennur brought with her a background in cross-cultural studies and global merchandising.

Bennur completed her doctorate at Oklahoma State University, specializing in apparel merchandising. Her dissertation compared American and South Asian consumers’ brand loyalty and buying behaviors.

“We thought, ‘This is perfect. We can have her teach this course,’” Ha said.

Social psychology of appearance will no longer be offered. For now, other merchandising courses will absorb some of the material covered in that class. Ha said the department hopes the course will eventually be revamped to focus on a combination of consumer behavior and psychology.

“Or maybe an entirely new course that’s trendier, more what students need,” Ha added.

Forty-nine students, most seniors, are enrolled in international retailing.

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