Retail Club revitalizes after the COVID-19 pandemic. Photo by Jada Gangazha.
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Butler University’s Retail Club has expanded its organization beyond pre-pandemic size, giving interested students more opportunities for involvement in the industry and the Indianapolis community.
The club, which was established as the Butler chapter of the National Retail Federation Student Association, NRSFA, aims to provide a space for students who want to be introduced to the retail world, or are exploring career options within the business field. Lori Coe is the associate director of Career and Professional Success, CAPS, and a faculty advisor for the Retail Club. She said that retail is the largest private sector employer in the United States economy, and she wanted to create a club of students ready to become a part of such a notorious industry.
“We wanted a community where students would feel like they belong with like-minded students that are interested in possibly pursuing careers in retail, or just an interest in retail in general,” Coe said.
The Retail Club was founded in 2019, but was put on hold during the COVID-19 pandemic due to lack of funding and in-person events. Melina Colucci, a senior marketing major and former president of Retail Club, brought back the organization after receiving Student Government Association approval and the funding necessary in fall 2021. Colucci said she wanted to bring back the club because she is passionate about bringing all the resources the NRFSA provides to Butler students.
“We have this amazing opportunity with the National Retail Federation to connect students directly to executives at those companies, or recruiters at those companies, to make more job opportunities and educational resources for our students,” Colucci said.
Colucci said that since Butler does not have any retail industry classes, this club is a valuable asset to help students get retail-related experience. Isa Sanchez, a junior marketing and international business double major, as well as current president of the Retail Club, agrees. Sanchez said the club allowed her to take advantage of various opportunities, including working at the Kohl’s Sophomore Career Expo last year.
“I thought it would be great to get into [the Career Expo],” Sanchez said. “Especially as a sophomore, you can’t really take on an internship at a lot of retail companies; you have to wait until junior year. So I attended a bunch of panels on DEI initiatives, merchandising design, all of these things to explore what my career options were within the company. Then I accepted a job offer [with Kohl’s] for the intern class this coming summer.”
Sanchez said that beyond internships and jobs, the club also provides opportunities for business and retail experiences. The National Retail Federation hosts case study competitions, hands out various scholarships and encourages clubs to take an active role in organizing service events for their own communities.
Both Sanchez’s and Colucci’s favorite event was the NRF Student Program held in New York City, as their retail interests lie in fashion. The event offers many different opportunities for students across the country to shadow business professionals, network with top retailers and attend presentations on the top issues surrounding the retail industry today. The trip was also covered by Butler, so students only had to pay transportation costs.
As student ambassador for the NRFSA, Sanchez said she is optimistic about growing the organization beyond their 20-member chapter, as more people look for a way to get involved on campus and attend more in-person events.
Sanchez and Colucci said that while the club is mostly composed of women, the retail world is not. Eloise Paul, an executive career mentor in the Lacy School of Business and a faculty advisor to the Retail Club, said that although the retail industry is notorious for fashion, many have CEOs that are men. Retail expands beyond fashion into other distribution stores that include Target and PetSmart. Paul said as more and more students get involved, they will understand that this is not an industry dominated by women.
“There are great opportunities for guys just like there are for women,” Paul said. “The opportunities aren’t always in the more traditional buying and selling roles, but in data analytics — those roles are in especially high demand in the retail industry.”
The Retail Club has several opportunities for engagement and awards planned for this semester. The club has meetings once a month. There are several scholarship opportunities open for all students, including the NRF Foundation Next Generation Scholarship, which awards $25,000 to the finalist. Additionally, Sanchez said the club will be hosting a clothing drive for students to donate clothes that will be given to the Julian Center.
“The NRF really urges us as students to get involved in our community too,” Sanchez said. “ I know a lot of students look for service opportunities, and I think [the clothing drive] will be a really low commitment, easy way for students to give back to the Indianapolis community through retail.”
Donation bins will be placed throughout campus from March 18 to 31 for students to give away their clothes.The Retail Club is hosting their next meeting on March 13 at 6:00 p.m. in Dugan Hall. For more information, contact Isa Sanchez at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit @nrfsabutler on Instagram.