University of Michigan: Ross - Retail and Luxury Goods Club

President, Maggie Ly discusses the effect the recession has on popular high-end brands such as Apple and Louis Vuitton

Retail and marketing enthusiast, Maggie Ly worked as a Strategy and Operations Consultant at Deloitte Consulting before taking an MBA at Michigan: Ross. As president of the Retail and Luxury Goods Club, Maggie talks about participating in treks to large retailers such as GAP and Levis as well as discussing the effects the recession has on high-end brands such as Apple and BMW.

What are your clubs big initiatives this year?
We are planning to participate in Ross' annual West Coast Forum trek where we will visit prominent retailers in the San Francisco Bay Area. Some of the potential retailers will include Levis, GAP, Williams Sonoma and North Face. We are also planning to put together a similar New York trek in early 2013. We hope that these events along with on-campus presentations from e-commerce businesses, retail consultancies, and national retailers, will help Ross students understand not only the diversity of opportunities within the retail industry, but also the trends and career paths within this exciting space.

How can an MBA be valued in retail and the luxury sector?
From my experience, it's actually quite challenging to find a well paid, retail/luxury position as an MBA unless you have retail experience. Seeing as how many MBAs are career switchers, this is not usually the case. Most luxury retail companies have an apprenticeship model and tend to hire more undergrads in order to train them specifically for working in their companies. Mass retailers such as Target and Walmart have very established MBA internship programs, but most luxury retailers are still catching on. Though there is some movement within top luxury firms such as LVMH, most MBAs still need to do their own networking and as much as we can, clubs like ours try to help students connect more personally with these companies outside of formal recruiting events.

How many members are there in Ross’ Retail and Luxury Goods Club?
Currently, we have about 60 MBA members in the club.

Who was your most exciting speaker this year?
Target has been a leader in launching very successful private labels in their stores. We had the opportunity to hear Target leaders discuss the importance of their Owned Brand strategy and how they work with their current suppliers to make the business model successful for both parties.

What proportion of luxury good sales do you think is recession proof?
I don't think any proportion of luxury good sales is completely recession proof. I do believe, however, that there are high-end brands (e.g., Apple, Louis Vuitton, BMW, etc.) that have refined their brand value to the point where those that still have the means to buy, would rather buy these brands because consumers believe it stands for quality, durability, and value retention. The reason that these brands still see growth in an otherwise dismal economy is because though consumers are more cautious about what they invest their money in, when they do buy, they want brands that they trust will last long and never go out of style.

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