Saint Mary’s University launches retail and services centre of excellence
RAMESH VENKAT is pretty clear about one of the goals he has for the new David Sobey Centre for Innovation in Retailing and Services at Halifax’s Saint Mary’s University.
“Part of what we will strive to do is change this perception that employment in retail and services is a dead-end job,” says Venkat, the Centre’s academic director.
Yes, the common view is that the retail and services industry is littered with waitress, bartender, and sales clerk jobs that are low-paying and don’t offer much hope for career advancement. But the sector is a large part of the Canadian economy. Venkat says it accounts for about 12 per cent of Canada’s gross domestic product.
Given the size of the industry in Canada, you would think university business schools would have all kinds of research centres focusing on retail and services. Not so. Saint Mary’s says it is the only Canadian university with a centre of excellence focusing on retailing and services. “There are all kinds of opportunities in this sector,” Venkat says. “The frontline workers, that’s what customers see. But there are opportunities in merchandising and branding, supply chain, data and analytics and more.”
The Centre already has eight research projects on the go focusing on topics relevant to the retail and services industry. The research will be aimed at improving the ability of retailers to innovate, improve the customer service experience and improve the performance of the sector. The Centre will also train and educate students to be leaders in the retail industry.
Those are lofty goals, but they are ones Venkat thinks the Centre can meet. “It would be great to see our research have some impact on improving business practices and outcomes for retail businesses,” he says.