For the third time in four years, a team of four students in FIT’s Jay and Patty Baker School of Business, representing the United States, has won the Retail Futures Challenge, an international competition that takes place at the annual World Retail Congress. The FIT team, which travelled to Dubai for this year’s competition, topped teams from schools in Portugal, Hong Kong, Italy, and England with Fora., a retail concept that “revolutionizes the status quo of department stores.”
The FIT team members are Eleonora Mazzetti, a Fashion Business Management major from Rome, Italy; Meghan McCarty, a Fashion Business Management major from Albany, NY; Alaina McGuigan, a Cosmetics Fragrance and Marketing major from Chelmsford, MA; and Vivian Yuen-Wing Tai, an Advertising and Marketing Communications major from Vancouver, BC. All the students are seniors.
For this year’s competition, the student teams were challenged to select a traditional retailer in their home country that has been successful and then develop a plan to launch a new competitor to disrupt them and steal market share. The challenge was based on the fact that retail has been impacted by the rise of discounting, digital, and fast fashion that has expanded globally from single country origins.
The FIT team created Fora., which in English is the plural of the word “forum” and in Greek means a chance, a turn, an opportunity, or to accelerate. Designed with millennial consumer values in mind—and as a re-envisioned shoppable forum—the students developed the Fora. concept to challenge Nordstrom by unifying e-commerce and brick-and-mortar through a comprehensive omnichannel approach.
The first store, located in Boston which has a large millennial population, aims to become the go-to destination for the millennial market and beyond, changing and growing with its customers to become part of their lifestyle. It is designed to include a café, moveable walls, and kiosks from which customers can locate and/or order items. Fora.’s seamless, customer-centric strategy addresses attainability, value, convenience, and sustainability, offering well-curated assortments and bringing ecommerce into the physical store space.
“It’s an extraordinary achievement for a team to win three out of four years, and it’s a testament to the hard work and creativity of the students that they were able to do it again,” said Robin Sackin, chair, Fashion Business Management, and advisor for the FIT team. “With this win, we celebrate the dedication of our students and our faculty as strategic thinkers, business entrepreneurs and industry leaders. Having the ability to think under pressure and perform as they did is thrilling for all of us and acknowledges our success in educating the future solution-driven thinkers in our industry.”
Each team’s preliminary work was submitted prior to the competition. During the World Retail Congress, the student teams’ concepts were displayed, with teams on hand to discuss their concepts with executives. The teams then made formal presentations to judges Patrick Chalhoub, joint CEO, Chalhoub Group; Bernie Brookes, CEO, Edcon Group; Andrea Weiss, board member, Grupo Cortefiel, and co-founder, The O Alliance; and Caroline Davidson, executive director, Beanstalk Labs.
Judges examined how well each team established and marketed their brand, how well the plan was thought out, how they secured the brand, how effectively the proposal showed differentiation, how the business case stacked up financially, how they plan to build a profitable and sustainable business, and how they could seamlessly apply the concept across multiple channels.