By  on July 19, 2007

It's an almost universal anxiety among college students: What happens after graduation? Universum Communications, an employer branding and research firm, has surveyed undergrads interested in fashion, apparel and retail on the most ideal employers. "The favorites are all associated with students' impressions of the ideal work-life balance," said Claudia Tattanelli, chief executive officer of Universum USA. The key attributes in the top 10 include: innovation, diversity, social responsibility and environmental commitment. They all have impressive training programs and none has a strict corporate office atmosphere. Retail operations are abundant within the majority of these favorite employers, and six of the top 10 have headquarters on the West Coast.

WALT DISNEY

Percentage of students interested in fashion, retail and apparel who chose this company as their ideal employer: 17.8

This media giant takes top honors, bumping Gap — 2006's winner — into second place. Sure, everyone knows of Walt Disney's theme parks and retail stores, but the company also boasts TV, radio, Internet and publishing businesses. Disney owns ABC, the Disney Channel and a majority stake in ESPN. It is a partner in the Lifetime Network conglomerate and A&E television network, among others. "This company has been upping its game quite a bit," said Claudia Tattanelli of Universum USA. "Disney has an incredible internship program, and the company is definitely a great resume builder." A male respondent from the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, said: "Walt Disney provides the best internship program. The company is a result of the talent and innovation of youth. They realize this and cater to students."

GAP INC.

Percentage: 17

Training programs abound for college students and recent grads. They include: The Retail Management Program, a nine-month training regimen that provides exposure to areas of the business through special projects and rotations in different departments; Manager in Training Program, an eight-week, in-store session for college graduates interested in store management, after which participants are assigned to manage an Old Navy store, and internships. in which every summer Gap invites undergraduate and M.B.A. students to visit the company's headquarters for a hands-on retail experience. "Gap is maintaining a strong brand image — students are attracted to the company's advertising and branding," Tattanelli said.

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