Swinburne University of Technology is the first Australian university to send a team to the World Retail Congress’ Future Retail Challenge student competition.
The congress is a key event for the global retail industry. This year, the hybrid event was hosted from London on September 14. Swinburne students Tara Anastasia, Keasha McGowan and Julian Kozulin were invited to present their innovative bricks and mortar strategy for plastic-free product company Pure Planet Club.
Mr Kozulin, a Bachelor of Business student, signed up for the challenge to develop his skills and test himself against international competition.
‘It was an amazing experience to represent Swinburne on such a global platform and I’m really glad I got to be a part of it,’ he says.
Dr Carla Ferraro, Professor Sean Sands and Dr Jason Pallant - all from Swinburne’s Department of Management and Marketing - mentored the team.
‘Each mentor brought their own unique skills and perspectives to the group, which made our collaboration and editing a potent process,’ Mr Kozulin says.
Landor & Fitch created a computer-generated image of the Pure Planet Club’s store concept.
Creating a sustainable future
The theme of the Future Retail Challenge was ‘Back to the Future – Reimagining Retail for the Post-Pandemic World’. Teams were invited to select a ‘new generation online-only brand or retailer’ bringing new products to their customers during the pandemic in a creative and sustainable way.
Teams were judged on a 10-page strategy for the launch of the brand’s first brick and mortar store and an eight-minute pitch to investors, followed by three minutes of live questions.
The students had to show how they would develop and enhance the business’ sustainability and ethical strategies in a post-COVID world where consumer behaviour has changed and there is an opportunity to create something new and unique in a physical store.
Each team worked with a designer from international design agency Landor & Fitch. The designer mentored the students in designing a physical retail space and created a computer-generated image of the store concept.
Unlike most teams who had sixth months to develop their submission, Swinburne received the brief less than two months before the deadline.
‘The workload for the challenge was big and constant, and this was over and above their university studies,’ says Dr Ferraro.
Bachelor of Business student Julian Kozulin represented Swinburne with Tara Anastasia and Keasha McGowan.
A global experience
The team performed ‘exceptionally well’, according to Dr Ferraro. She says their written report and presentation was ‘very strong’ and reflected their hard work, despite not placing.
‘They each expanded their immediate marketing knowledge base to deeply apply this to a retailing context, including familiarising themselves with the industry sector.’
Mr Kozulin gained confidence during the challenge, which solidified his love for the retail industry.
‘I’ve never worked with students who were as motivated and driven as Tara and Keasha and, as cheesy as this may sound, they made this whole experience a highlight,’ he says.
‘This was an extremely rewarding experience and there’s not a reason I can think of that would not make me urge people to enter.’