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  • Writer's pictureAbby Meyer

Welcome to New Yorkkk!!!

Over winter break, I traveled to New York City for the first time with the Student Retail Association from UW-Madison. I was so excited to be selected to attend the National Retail Federation Student Program with over 1,000 other students from across the country. Keep reading to hear about my travels to the Big City and what I learned from the leader's in retail through industry tours and the NRF conference.


Bright and early, I left for the airport at 3:30 am. We arrived in NYC around 10 am on Wednesday, which left us enough time to explore the area around Times Square where we were staying. Going into this trip, I did not know anyone very well, but I was eager to meet new friends and get to know so many interesting people. After getting brunch at a nearby coffee shop, I explored the sights along 5th Ave. We didn't make it too far before my shoes began to rub the backs of my heels...not exactly the best way to start out a trip! We made it back to the hotel, where I bandaged up the blisters, dressed in my business professional attire, and headed out for our first industry tour: Rent the Runway.

Rent the Runway happened to be one of my favorite industry trips. I had heard of RTR before, but I did not realize the extent of merchandise they rented and how their business operated. I really enjoyed meeting with Rent the Runway and learning what makes their business model so unique. They focus on the motto, "Buy less, Live more," which is changing the way consumers think and shop.

Next stop, Trunk Club. Trunk Club is a styling service company owned by Nordstrom. More infamously known for premiering in Gossip Girl, the Trunk Club clubhouse is the mansion attached to the Palace where Nate Archibald lived in Gossip Girl. Learning about the history of Trunk Club was interesting, as it was bought by Nordstrom with hopes to build a more personal relationship with the costumer and provide them with an experience unlike those in a department store. Both RTR and Trunk Club emphasized the value of the customer experience within their business, which is so interesting to see how each brand delivers an experience unique to their brand.


We began the day with breakfast at Macy's corporate followed by a Q&A with buyers and merchandisers at Macy's. Macy's shared their North Star Strategy and insights into how their brand has become a tradition in homes across the globe and how they are using technology to grow into the future. After Macy's, we had a few hours of free time before we met at H&M headquarters.

I wandered around the Flatiron district with a friend and grabbed one of NY's famous bagels (I'm a huge fan of a good bagel & cream cheese, so I was excited to see if these bagels lived up to their reputation!!). We also stopped for a Target run on the way there. Those who know me well know that I love the Target brand, so I had to stop in to see what Target was up to in New York.

We were welcomed into H&M by a team whose roles varied across many departments, so it was interesting to hear from the variety of roles at H&M. The panel shared how social media is changing the way consumers shop and how they optimize e-commerce through online sales.

After the industry trips, we did a little sightseeing in the meatpacking district. We visited the Chelsea Market, the Whitney Museum, and found the Starbuck's Reserve. The Reserve was a great example of a company wanting to take the customer experience to new heights. The Starbuck's Reserve was designed as," both workshop and stage, a three-dimensional window into the coffee journey." While I am more likely to walk into a local coffee shop than a Starbuck's, this experience is one you do not want to miss!


Friday was the first day of the NRF conference. We heard from Andy Dunn from Walmart and founder of Bonobos, Chris Baldwin, CEO of BJ's Wholesale Club, and panels with Nike, Wayfair, Pet Smart, and Home Depot. Day two of the conference was exciting because we were able to speak with executives from companies like Kohl's, Brooks Brothers, Hallmark, and Ascena. We also networked with other students and companies at the career fair and Kohl's ice skating event at the Rockefeller. To end the conference, Jo Malone gave the keynote speech, which was one of the most inspiring entrepreneurial speeches I've heard!

The takeaways from the Student Program:

  1. A successful brand can "walk the talk" when it comes to customer experience.

  2. Finding the right company for you means being passionate for a brand that aligns with your values and mission.

  3. Skills necessary to succeed in retail: quantitative skills, strategic agility, digital fluency, and time management.

  4. Cross-functionality is key.

  5. To lead, not manage, you must be authentic, a listener, and uniquely you.

  6. The core qualities of retail include: the ability to deliver value, solve problems for consumers, and continue to evolve to meet changing customer needs.

  7. Set high standards. Don't accept anything less because that then becomes your standards.

  8. The human connection is ever important in the success of a brand, but it must stay relevant with the times.

  9. It's okay to ask questions and not know the answers. You only can get better.

  10. Take big enough risks to fail- it shows you can learn and improve.

What a rewarding and exciting experience, which I am so thankful to have had the opportunity to share with fellow Badgers. I am looking forward to putting the advice and knowledge I have gained at the NRF conference to good use throughout my career!

Bye for now, NYC!

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