The following article is one of a series written for the Crimson by W. W. Daly '14, University Secretary for Student Employment, on the various fields of endeavor in business open to college graduates.
The general field of retail merchandising may be considered as divided into two distinct divisions, which I shall discuss separately, -- Department Store Merchandising, and Chain Store Merchandising.
Among the many developments of our commercial organization probably nothing has been more striking than the growth from the retail general store to the metropolitan department store. Whereas years ago the small individually owned and operated institution was run by a man of native genius and little or no system, today there is probably more actual system and organization in the retail store than in any other organization. Such terms as Inventory Control, Organization Statistics, Sales Audit, etc. which are common enough in these enlightened days, would have been utterly unimaginable twenty-five or fifty years ago.
Macy's An Example
One example of the tremendous strides made in retail merchandising is the R. H. Macy Company, which in the past twenty-five or forty years has grown from a little store in the lower end of Manhattan Island to an international merchandising organization, with its headquarters occupying almost a complete block in Herald Square. Its personnel ranges from seven or eight thousand in the dull season to fourteen thousand at the time of the heaviest Christmas business, and its total annual sales run almost to the hundred million mark.
Places for College Men
In such a tremendous organization there are many openings which would naturally be filled by college men, and for that reason this company and many others have systematically gone about recruiting seniors in men's and women's colleges who will be trained for the key position in their establishments.
It is interesting to note that among the several hundred college men in the organization there are members of the firm, merchandise counselors, and many department managers.
A department store may be roughly divided into four main sections--merchandising, management, finance, and publicity.
The Merchandise Division is responsible for the selection, purchase, and sale of merchandise, and the various departments are each under a department manager or buyer. It is his function to select and purchase the goods which his department handles and he is responsible for getting rid of the goods. Under him are his various assistant managers and his heads of stock.
The Management Division includes operating, service, delivery, warehousing, and similar non-selling functions.
The Finance Division includes the supervision of all actual financial operations receipt and disbursement of money, with the recording of facts relating thereto.
The Publicity Department is, as its name implies, that Department which covers the relations with customers in the broadest sense; advertising, sending out notices of special sales, display work in conjunction with the Department Managers, and other similar functions.
Training for the Work
Most large department stores today have adopted training programs. These programs vary with the experience of the management and with the company's ideas on progress. The training period covers from a month or six weeks to two years. In the shorter courses the training is intensive and in the longer ones it is combined with actual store practice. In each case the attempt is made to instruct the trainee in various selling and non-selling functions and to give a certain amount of practice in the various phases of Merchandising and Management work.
Work is Exacting
Men entering the selling or retail merchandise fields probably have to work somewhat harder and more constantly than in other fields. Saturday afternoon, for example, a holiday in many businesses, is one of the heaviest periods in retail sales work. On the other hand, the human contacts which retail merchandising affords and the general soundness and solidarity of the retail business affords a more definite and sure career than in some other fields. The pressure is constantly being put on the members of the training squads and junior executives to prepare themselves for larger and more remunerative positions.
President Lowell has referred to merchandising as the oldest of the arts and the newest of the sciences, and it is to this new science of retail merchandising that many college men are turning for a business career.
It is, I think, a safe statement to say that retail merchandising today affords as wide, profitable, and limitless a career as any field which a college man may consider.