Reinventing Retail

The Retail, Merchandising and Product Development school at FSU stitches itself into Tallahassee’s community

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Shannon griffin

Ann Langston, director of the FSU Retail Innovation Center, and Sherry Schofield, department chair of the RMPD school style a dress form for the center’s window display.

Fishnet tights under cutoff denim shorts, worn with a vintage Rolling Stones t-shirt. A tie-dyed crop-top revealing a sliver of skin above high-waist jeans. A pressed button-down, conspicuously paired with weathered Converse sneakers. In a ten-minute stroll across Florida State University’s campus, it becomes apparent that the sidewalks are much like the runways, where what you wear portrays who you are — or at least what you want others to perceive about you. 

The concrete jungle of New York City, the easy-breezy California coastline, the urban sprawl of Atlanta — In the U.S., these are the areas that tend to be regarded as “fashion forward.” Tallahassee is, foreseeably, not at the top of that list; but the trend-setting students of the Retail, Merchandising and Product Development (RMPD) major at FSU are trying their hardest to put this city on the map. 

“You can almost pick out our students if you sit somewhere on campus and people-watch,” says Sherry Schofield, Department Chair of the RMPD school. “They are more fashionable, they are more upbeat and they are different. They have a drive that others don’t, because they want fashion.”

Nicholas Kielbasa | | Lauren Alsina

Swatch Magazine casts students as their models for fashion photo shoots. In many cases, the fashion pieces used for photography are sourced from local boutiques, local designers and the closets of the Swatch staff. The photography, modeling, writing, designing and editing are all accomplished outside of the classroom setting.

In a school of over 41,000 students, 500 of that number have chosen Retail, Merchandising and Product Development as their major. A miniscule notch in the total, but not one that goes unnoticed. With internships around the world and one of the few majors on campus that guarantees job placement immediately upon graduation, RMPD students are sewing themselves tightly into success. 

“One in every four people in Florida work in retail,” says Ann Langston, the director of the FSU Retail Innovation Center. “The beauty of the retail industry is it’s very broad. There are plenty of positions and plenty of jobs, especially in Florida. We typically do one-hundred-percent placement — there is that much demand for retail.” 

Program graduates enter into the industry as store managers, buyers, stylists, designers, strategists, business owners, costume designers, product developers, fashion consultants, marketing coordinators and the list goes on. While store associates are valuable and needed assets, it frustrates many students who are currently in the major that the public perspective on their skill sets seems to limit them to that path. 

“This major makes the world go round,” Langston explains. “It’s consumerism, because we are a buying society. If you look at anything, the retail industry has touched it.” 


Creative Curriculum 

Retail, Merchandising and Product Development is a major that is housed within the College of Human Sciences. The mission of this department is to address the well-being of individuals, families and communities. The RMPD program contributes to this mission by thoroughly training each student in industry-relevant technology, product development methods, store operations, merchandising strategies, forecasting, consumer behavior, design principles, management and sales. 

You may wonder how these skills contribute to you. Remember how you entered that particular department store and were helped, noticed and thanked, and the experience left you with a warm feeling toward that establishment? Think for a minute about how often you look in a magazine to see what your favorite celebrity is sporting. And don’t forget the time you bought that beautiful dress right off the mannequin because it caught your eye. The students in the RMPD program are taught all of the ways to excel in making the consumer’s experience valuable and enjoyable.

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