The retail labor shortage is expected to continue through the holiday shopping season as workers are feeling over-worked, burned out and, in many instances, not highly valued. After a prolonged pandemic, many workers have shifted their personal priorities while a large number are following their dreams and launching their own businesses.
According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of people establishing their own business is on an upward trajectory, and economists expect the trend to continue for some time. In the fashion industry, employees are breaking out on their own to launch collections, design apparel and accessories, and create direct-to-consumer e-commerce businesses.
Career advisers say it’s not too late to reinvent one’s career and redirect the employment path from working for others to working for yourself. For budding entrepreneurs, Björn Bengtsson, a faculty member at Parsons, suggests launching a business with the help of advisers. He said fashion apparel is a business that tends to be costly. “Which is why you need an adviser in your business — someone who has business experience,” he said during an online lesson, “Entrepreneurship and the Fashion System,” which is part of Parsons and WWD’s Fashion Business Essentials. The program is powered by Yellowbrick and includes insights from Parsons’ faculty as well as industry experts.
In addition to the module on entrepreneurship, Fashion Business Essentials has four other, online modules: Managing Fashion Production; Fashion Branding; Marketing Strategies, and Retailing and Distribution. Regarding the latter, Yellowbrick noted that students “will learn the ins and outs of fashion retail and distribution, key competencies for any successful fashion entrepreneur” and said the module covers “managing relationships with retailers, strategies for maximizing trade show opportunities, overseeing e-commerce operations, approaches to pop-up retail and how to use analytics to optimize a distribution plan.”
The course approach is comprehensive and considers all of the challenges facing anyone looking to reinvent themselves in the fashion industry. In the Retailing and Distribution module, industry experts discuss what’s new in the industry, the growth of e-commerce and cost-effective retail models. The module also sheds light on the fundamental reasons people shop and the role of a physical store.
Aliya Morehead, creative director at Hickey Freeman and Samuelsohn, tells online attendees that “brick-and-mortar is important because people still want to feel and touch products, and they want to have a relationship with someone selling those products.”
Leah Van Horn, an adjunct faculty member at Parsons, agreed and urged students who are thinking about opening a retail store to “create an experience” for shoppers. “They have to have a reason to go into the store,” Van Horn said. “If there is no reason to go in they’re going to get it online. We’re living in this post-COVID-19 world where everyone has found that they can very easily get what they need online. So, stores have to be very good at creating an experience.”
Van Horn cited Anthropology as an example of a merchant who creates a notable in-store experience for shoppers, where there is a sense of excitement and product discovery.