JP: “I was listening to this interview with Pharrell, and he was saying it couldn’t be a better year because its 2013 and everything is completely different - and things are not in a box. And then he went on to say, ‘and if they are, it’s like please don’t talk to me - I don’t want to catch your mentality’ [laughs] I love it - don’t ever give me or show me the same old, don’t ever show me a box. There’s good base inside [the box], so use it, but add to it and show me something new and interesting.”
That is the challenge Retail Assembly is tackling on two different levels:
1. Within RA, it’s how to present the content in an interesting way. Also ensure that it’s great, innovative content from people at the top of their game. Aside from learning about a particular aspect of the retail industry, RA wants you to walk away with sparks, ideas, which you can use in your own business.
2. Provide the user a platform to get out of their box. “Ultimately what we want is to allow you to get a really good, really clear understanding of each of the factors affecting your business - and once you’ve got that, you’re golden. You can do whatever you want, because you’ll know the implications of everything you want to do. It’s powerful stuff.”
R: Even so, there are a lot of boxes on the site
JP: Visually, I love boxes, squares, spheres (symmetry) clean. That’s what a foundation should be: stable, balanced, simple. Strategically, I like things still clear, but freeform - not boxed - individual, but still clear. That’s what everyone should walk away with - a individual idea of what they can do better for their customers, their business, etc.
R: How do you get so clear?
JP: I LOVE wading through the mess to get there. Sometimes I spend too much time there [in the mess].
R: Yeah, the mess is key - its kinda how you guys run the content meetings I’ve been to. Everyone throws everything on the table, and then edit, and find the links between this person’s story and that person’s idea. And then it gets edited and organized some more.
JP: Actually, that’s how I used to buy [for retailers] too. Show me everything and let me narrow it down to get the customer -and the business- a great delivery. If it makes you feel better, I used to ask my vendors for as much as I ask from all of you.
R: You push everyone farther and they like it.
JP: [laughs] Most of the time.
LIFESTYLE - WORKSTYLE
We’re at this great place where technology has given us a freedom and a flexibility where we can accomplish more - almost anywhere. For example, I’m working and sitting on a park bench on a sunny Sunday. It’s rumored that part of a RA course was written on a beach in the Caribbean. I’ve been to many fully functional meetings at the Retail Assembly offices on their patio. And I’m going to finish up the Retail Math workshop I’m taking on the couch with my dog and girlfriend tonight on the couch.
Although they work long and hard, and are fueled by craft coffee like any good big-city-based organization, flexibility and ease of use accent almost every conversation. They seem to understand that people - their users - are busy, that they work, they get out of town, they need downtime with friends and family. The RA team wants to facilitate job/career advancement without letting go of any freedom in life.
FOUNDATION - FUNDAMENTALS
In one of my earliest conversations with Jennifer, she retold this story about about a football coach who held, “like, a dozen” practises without a football. The coach emphasized that in a game, you only have the ball for a very small percentage of the time, and that the team would spend most of their time practising the foundational and fundamental skills of the game. Jennifer was quick to say she believed in practising with the ball, but wanted the foundational info in the workshops to be just as solid as those players’ skills.
CONNECTIONS - NETWORKS
This is where things get a bit wild at RA, when you ask them about connections. They have these mind maps where the foundational concepts are laid out for any course. Floating outside of that are more detailed ways to execute each concept, and out from that is another layer of innovation. It seems easy enough - three layers. Then you notice the lines drawn connecting foundations to executions to innovations and it just looks like a mess.
But the crazy thing is, when you’re going through the content at RA, they are making all these connections for you, but it doesn’t seem at all like the maps. It’s simple, one small idea carries over to three other areas. Allocating 200 square feet to something means x for your sales plans, y for your customer’s experience, z for your purchases, etc. It’s seamless, easy.
“People like people. We like people. And the best part about retail and fashion is that there is no shortage of really stellar people and ideas”. Bringing together fashion and retail’s best to offer up a case study, a story, a contribution is really important to the organization who values, not just learning the business, but applying it to the future. Insights, a peek into what other businesses are doing, and what’s coming down the pipeline are attacked with the same fever as the fundamentals.
Everytime I’m at the Retail Assembly offices, I’m feeling that the retail industry is full of opportunity, and I’ve probably met someone new. Everytime I speak with Jennifer I have a greater sense of freedom than I had before. All this is despite the fact that I have more work to do than before I arrived, and probably another online retail workshop I want to go through. But that is the power of inspiration.
RETAIL ASSEMBLY LAUNCHES THE WORKSHOPS SERIES
Online workshops to fill knowledge gaps for brand and retail professionals
Toronto, ON – (March 24, 2014) Fashion and retail training agency RETAIL ASSEMBLY is pleased to announce the launch of their online workshop series. The workshops were created to meet the needs of more advanced professionals who are looking to build their skills in a particular area of the business.
A recent report published on HBR.org indicated that 54 percent of workers don’t think they know everything they need to know in order to do their current jobs. The online workshops fill these knowledge gaps and create masters and best-in-class merchants. Shorter than the courses, the workshop subscriptions are 4 weeks each, but go into greater depth on a narrower topic.
“These workshops have been in-development for quite some time, and we are excited to be launching them. Professionals who are already firmly established in their roles need detailed and inspired insights into the topic they’d like to master”, explains Jennifer Pilkington, managing director of Retail Assembly.
As with each offering, Retail Assembly reached out to their network to develop meaningful, relevant content. Not only will users build a strong foundation for what is happening with the best and brightest currently, but there is a strong element of what may be coming. “Every business needs to maintain and perfect their core, while fostering the new. That applies to product, processes, strategies, and customers,” emphasizes Pilkington.
Carrying on a tradition of interactive courses, with access to industry experts, instructors, and contributors, users will ultimately come to master key fashion and retail skills in the online workshops. Learners can sign-up for the workshops at retail-assembly.org. A subscription runs $190 US for four weeks.
- Trend Forecasting
- Demand Planning
- Profitable Markdowns
- Wholesale Introduction
- Assortment Planning
- Inventory Productivity
- Business Forecasting
- Working with a large retailer
ABOUT RETAIL ASSEMBLY
RETAIL ASSEMBLY is the training and developing agency serving the best brands and retailers around the globe. Every one of our courses and sessions has been developed with a network of professionals spanning industries (lifestyle to luxury), and businesses (specialty to majors).
Media contact | Susan Miller | email@example.com
Download a copy of the release | RETAIL ASSEMBLY LAUNCHES THE WORKSHOPS SERIES
KNOWSHOW PARTNERS WITH RETAIL ASSEMBLY TO PRESENT INDUSTRY LEARNING SESSIONS
Tradeshow Buying Workshop Aims to Improve Canadian Retail Profit and Productivity
Vancouver, BC - (July 8, 2013) KNOWSHOW is pleased to announce a partnership with Toronto based industry educators, Retail Assembly, for the return of their industry learning sessions to the tradeshow this summer.
Building on their reputation as Canada’s premier lifestyle tradeshow, KNOWSHOW will be offering attendees the chance to maximize their experience through a morning workshop on Tradeshow Buying at the Vancouver Convention Center West on July 30th at 10 AM.
"Because of the distinct, focused vision of every brand, supplier, and retailer at KNOWSHOW, it's the perfect place to create a conversation and offer up a workshop. Partnering with Retail Assembly is helping us fulfill our mandate of facilitating connections and supporting the Canadian retail scene", says KNOWSHOW General Manager, Perry Pugh.
The workshop will be led by Jennifer Pilkington, an instructor from Ryerson University who brings a wealth of industry experience from her work as a buyer for The Bay, Artizia and Holt Renfrew. The session is designed to give retailers and buyers the tools and resources to help recognize opportunities, move key accounts along and improve the profit and productivity of buys in Canada’s shifting retail landscape.
"The retail landscape in Canada is transitioning and a lot of really strong international retailers are entering our market which will give the big guys a great push to evolve. At the same time, the emphasis on provenance, local and diverse experiences, are all resonating with a mass audience. This is where the opportunity is for brands and retailers today and what KNOWSHOW does really well", says Pilkington.
Interviews with Jennifer Pilkington, Perry Pugh, and representatives from local retailers are available pre and post event. Additional information and interviews are available upon request.
Established in 2006, the KNOWSHOW is a privately held bi-annual trade show catering to Canada’s top lifestyle, fashion and action sports retailers and brands. Each January and August wholesalers of selected brands and their reps premier new products to the nation’s best retailers and media during a three day show held at the Vancouver Convention Centre West.
NEXT KNOWSHOW DATES:
July 30 - August 1st, 2013
Tuesday / Wednesday : 9:00am - 6:00pm
Thursday 9:00am - 4:00pm
West Hall A 1055 Canada Place, Vancouver, BC
ABOUT RETAIL ASSEMBLY:
Retail Assembly is a group of top educational and retail professionals gathered together to develop a new, intelligent, light, ENGAGING way to teach the fundamentals of the retail industry. We are redefining professional development through curated content, and the flexible online tools with which the user learns the principles & fundamentals required for each job. Retail Assembly is the result of those collaborations.
Download a copy of the release: KNOWSHOW PARTNERS WITH RETAIL ASSEMBLY TO PRESENT INDUSTRY LEARNING SESSIONS
Working in the fashion industry can be challenging, especially when you are new to the game or even searching for that missing link in your skill set. Retail Assembly is the latest source of education for those who are seeking a career in fashion, and those who are looking to supplement their knowledge in the field. The website offers a selection of courses and workshops, from Buying to Product Development to Retail Math. Catering to busy schedules, the courses are taught by professionals that are currently active in fashion and creative businesses.
Founder Jennifer Pilkington discusses this innovative model for fashion education and shares her career advice.
Valerie Tiu: Were you always interested in the fashion industry?
Jennifer Pilkington: I wasn’t always interested in fashion but I was always interested in design, colour and shape. When I started at Ryerson, I wasn’t sure that fashion was even the right industry for me because it was so drastically different from all my experiences up to that point. In my second year, I had an internship at Holt Renfrew and when you start working at their corporate offices, it’s really hard not to fall in love with the fashion industry. You have exposure to so much passion and some really great personalities. It was an eye-opening experience.
VT: Where did the concept for Retail Assembly come about?
JP: There were a million little moments that lead to the idea and creation of it. A few months before I started the company, I had frustrating experience after frustrating experience as a manager. I was buying for The Bay at the time and I just couldn’t give my team a good enough opportunity for them to learn on the job and progress.
I was also teaching at Ryerson, and while prepping for the course, content beyond what the textbooks were offering was really hard to come by. Textbooks are always a little bit stale, not current or reflective of the marketplace. So I think it was a culmination of all of those things.
Also, seeing students travel absurd distances to come to class once a week while almost everybody works fulltime. It’s really important for us to consider time constraints and flexibility. At some point I realized that it was time to put my feelers out there, so that’s how it all happened.
VT: What kind of courses do and workshops do you offer?
JP: From Vancouver specifically we get a ton of people coming for our Buying and Product Development classes. Retail Math and The Supply Chain have also been really great workshops. Buying, Product Development, Sourcing and Marketing have been heavier courses that take you through the basics and fundamentals. They’re supplemented with case studies, worksheets and quizzes so they are pretty comprehensive.
VT: Tell us about your team of instructors.
JP: Every single course that we have developed has had multiple people touch it. They either provided the content or feedback. We wanted to ensure that each course reflected the scope of the industry. When I think about what I teach, Fashion Buying, my experience spans the corporate world and bigger companies. I don’t necessarily look at the business the same way that a boutique does.
By bringing in a lot of people who have worked in the industry to look at each course, I think it provides an unbiased view. We have at least one person from the education field to take a look at it, just to make sure there is sound structure to it.
For example, in the buying course, we had people come from boutiques and also corporate retailers. I think that’s what makes me so excited about what we’re doing – that everybody who has contributed to the courses is currently working in the industry. It creates room and space for new instructors to come in and contribute. I used my global network - we didn’t necessarily want to keep it specific to Canada.VT: Why do you think education is important for people aspiring to work in fashion?
JP: I don’t think it’s the most important thing. But I do think for a lot of people, those job opportunities are not available as quick as you want them, or may be available at all. For people who are in store sales for example, education gives you a base to start from. It will set your resume apart because it shows that you’re serious about a career in fashion.
In an interview it will show that you understand concepts and the fundamentals. And when you get the job, you’re already ahead of the game. It’s not the most important thing, but I think it is a great supplement.
VT: What’s the most valuable career advice that you’ve given or received?
JP: Really early on at Holt Renfrew I had a mentor who said relationships are the most important thing in your professional life. Relationships in terms of having to work for somebody else, collaborating and asking, “What value do you bring to the table?”
VT: What is your most memorable experience working in fashion?
JP: There are so many memorable experiences that would make your jaw drop. I remember going to meet with the designers of Proenza Schouler. I was buying for Holt Renfrew at the time. They just seemed like these two really nice, lovely Canadian guys, but were so bold in their vision. I remember looking at coats for 4000 dollars, when these guys didn’t have a reputation at all in the industry at this point. But they believed so much in who their customer was, their skills, quality and craftsmanship. I just thought it was really ballsy and I was impressed.
VT: How do you envision the future of Retail Assembly?
JP: We initially picked a name that was bigger than what it was going to be. “Retail” is there so it reflects the industry and we really liked the idea of an assembly, of getting people around the table for a common purpose. Right now we have multiple contributors, so for every course there are five to 15 people touching it.
We hope that it becomes a showcase for innovation and new ideas. We want people contributing whatever it is they’re doing from an innovation and strategic standpoint. We want to spark ideas. We don’t want to just teach content, we want it to be a source of inspiration and improvement for the industry as well.