Retail and recruitment industry experts help students prepare for next career steps

An expert panel with representatives from companies such as John Lewis and Amazon was impressed by the knowledge and presentation skills of University of Chester students after putting them through their paces at a Retail Assessment Centre.

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Students presenting to the panel.
Students presenting to the panel.

University of Chester students examined the changing world of retail and prepared for the next stage in their careers with a series of challenges assessed by a panel of experts from leading companies.

Final year Retail Management students at the University’s Business School were given the opportunity to experience an assessment centre exercise at Queen’s Park this month (March).

More than 50 students took part, testing their understanding of contemporary and strategic retailing principles before they graduate and embark on new roles in the workplace. In groups, the students critically analysed a well-known retailer of their choice; presented this research to the panel of retailing and recruitment experts; answered individual ‘interview’ questions and completed the day’s activities with an observed group exercise.

The topics of discussion included changes in retail and its post-pandemic future, benefits of retailers sourcing goods locally, how waste can be reduced in retail and trends that retail developers might take into account, to respond to new shopping habits and technologies.

The assessment panel comprised a number of experts including senior representatives from John Lewis, Waitrose, Amazon, Liverpool ONE, Enterprise, Iceland, McCarthy Recruitment and McArthur Glen Cheshire Oaks, who all supported the exercise to provide the candidates with authentic employer feedback.

The Chester Business School Retail Management Assessment Centres were organised by Lisa Conway, Module Leader for Retail Management, with the support of colleagues from across the Business School and Student Futures – the University’s Careers and Employability service.

Lisa, who is also a Senior University Teaching Fellow and Senior Lecturer in Business and Management for the Business School, said: “The students showed a range of knowledge and ideas in retail and the expert panel was extremely impressed.

“While there may have been some nerves in addressing such a prestigious panel, the students overcame these to offer their considered insights, demonstrate their presentation and interview skills and gain valuable experience for the future.

“The extensive expertise and feedback offered by our retail and recruitment specialists is beyond measure and we are very grateful to all of them for giving us their time.”

Student Daniella Bryan described taking part: “Retail Management has been a really fun, challenging, and engaging module. Our final assessment, being an assessment centre as opposed to written assignments which is required for most other modules, motivated me to want to do especially well.

“It tested a completely different skill set that I had to adapt to, but I found it really useful, and I now feel more confident to apply these skills for future working practices and real-life assessment centres.”

Panellist Ray Biggs, Head of Customer Care at John Lewis and Waitrose, said: “It was great to be able to support the University of Chester in this way, and very exciting to see first-hand some brilliant talent.”

Tony Carr, Centre Manager, Amazon Warrington and fellow panellist, added: “It was a privilege to engage with the students and learn more through their presentations about some of the key trends and issues experienced by some of the UK’s premier retailers.

“The Q&A session was a chance to probe their knowledge levels but also to help guide the way they think about the subject matter as their journeys continue. I was truly impressed with the poise and intellect of these young leaders.”

Retail Management is a final year module that is taken by Business School students studying a range of different degree programmes including Business Management, International Tourism and Marketing Management.

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