For your final paper we will be focusing on the retail industry and the many changes which have happened in the retail landscape over the past 5, 10, 15, 20 years — lots of big shifts, in fact too many for one person’s paper, so you will have a choice of how you choose to focus your paper, via path A, B, or C — and you will later be sharing your paper with the class on the discussion board as part of the final project, so you will be able to see what other classmates wrote about in their research, hopefully adding to your knowledge in this way as well. Read the directions carefully!
To start with, choose ONE of the following to begin your paper.
A — The Traditional Focus – “The Rise and Fall of the American Mall”
B – The Online Focus – “Internet Shopping Takes Over”
C – Amazon – (so big they get their own category!) “How Amazon Ate Everyone”
Under this topic heading, you will engage in a brief historical overview of your topic — so if you choose topic A you would outline how the mall came to be a part of the American landscape, when was the mall at its peak and how and when the decline began as well as potential trends and forecast for the future. This analysis is to be supplemented with at least three credible sources for this portion (probably more!) — this is not an opinion piece, but a researched historical overview backed up with sources and facts. Facts are key, including specific numbers – this is in the past so there is plenty of data to find, dollar amounts, percentages, etc. If you are having a hard time finding these facts online, I advise you to search out a reference librarian at a CSU library, or any public library near you, they are incredibly helpful in pointing you toward a printed source that will have this information. (Again, it is in the past, it has been written about, and if you tell me you can’t find it, my first question will be which library you consulted!)
Next, you will choose ONE brand within your topic to study more closely — so in theme A, it could be a department store such as Macy’s, a big-box retailer like Home Depot, or a smaller mall staple like Abercrombie & Fitch. In the online category an online retailer like Zappos or chewy.com; NOT a physical store that is also online. (Which is pretty much every physical store now so that defeats the purpose!) The idea is to examine an online retailer; however, if they have now opened physical stores those are acceptable, but their origin must be online (ex: Away luggage, Bonobos — both of which were started online but have some physical stores now) If you say you “do not know,” an online search will be advised, this is not hidden information, it is very discoverable. For choice C, your brand is also Amazon.
After you choose your brand you will do a deeper analysis of this brand and how they interact with their retail landscape. Again, three sources (additional ones, so minimum of six different sources total) are required, and your analysis must include facts (what is the valuation of the brand in sales, what percentage of sales does the brand have in their category – are they the leader or a small player; is their market share rising or falling?) Those are just some of the questions to ask yourself and answer, concluding with an analysis of where you see this brand in five to ten years. For some of you, the answer may be extinct! For others, transformed, and for others, perhaps bigger and better than ever. Back up your prediction with data and sources.
Finally, in the last part of the paper, you get to be the expert and offer your brand advice, based on what you now know about the retail landscape — if you were the brand manager, what would you recommend? You are NOT creating a campaign! That is for another class, down the line, this is not a complete creative execution, it is an explanation with your words, and if you WANT to, you could include some clip art/visuals to make your point, but you are not required to do so at this point.
For example, I have had students in the past, who are very excited about their idea, show a logo switch they would recommend for the brand and they design the new logo to practice their Adobe InDesign skills – that is excellent! They were not required to make a whole campaign showing this logo in all the places it exists – that is a 400-level class assignment. On the other hand, saying “I would make changes” without describing them in detail with your words is not what I am looking for — and the ideas must be based on what you found out. For example, if you determine your brand has not kept up with the times and must target a younger demographic (and this idea is backed up with research you found) you can then explain how you would target this new demographic. If you have questions about this (or any) portion I would be happy to go in more depth with you, based on your brand, as long as you reach out in plenty of time.
Finally, conclude briefly to summarize the three portions of the paper, don’t just end without a summary, it can be a re-cap or “one more idea” type of conclusion, no new research is required.
Plan on two to three pages for the beginning analysis, another two to three pages about the brand, and one to two pages for the advice, plus a reference page. Your paper may be longer, but it is doubtful you can accomplish these goals in less than 8 pages total, not including references. Total source Minimum: SIX. (sources do not include the brand website, although definitely plan to spend time on their website!) References must be APA or MLA Style – choose the style of your preference and then stick with it for citing in the paper and in the bibliography, do not make up a new hybrid style.
Recommend using sites such as citefast.com, easybib, or Zotero for your bibliography.
Keep in mind this is your capstone/final assignment, this is the reason you do not have a final exam, so plan to spend significant time if you want to do well, it is not the type of assignment you can throw together in a day or two and do well, trust me, it shows!
Print out this assignment, read it over and start planning ASAP and you will have a paper you can eventually use for gaining employment (this project has helped students in the past gain internships and interviews, it shows you know what is happening in the consumer landscape which is critical information since you have a choice here, choose the one which interests you most!)
Last but not least: An Important Pandemic Related Note on Retail!
The retail industry is in flux, when the students were completing their assignment in the spring they were already writing about a brand and it may have gone bankrupt, increased sales, or otherwise changed dramatically in a few weeks. The retail landscape was already shifting dramatically, but the pandemic has changed it even more, and many corporations are being paid to analyze and consult on this topic, I do not expect you in one paper to have all the answers for your brand, but I do expect you to address the pandemic and your theme and brand. Did it help, hurt, or otherwise impact the retail landscape and brand? If you are writing about the mall, you would address that a shutdown did not help matters, however, online shopping mostly grew (in certain categories but not all.)
The good news is, this topic is being researched DAILY and written about everywhere, so you will have plenty of sources, no matter if you are doing A, B, or C – but if you do not mention the pandemic your report will definitely be incomplete, as no industry is completely unaffected by recent events, for good or bad. The pandemic analysis is likely to figure mostly into Part Three where you forecast for your brand, but it can be included in the other parts of the paper as well.