Demanding online customers, who do not immediately find the latest T-shirt or jeans by their favourite label, can vanish in a click! Short-lived trends and the volatile user behaviour of target groups make them difficult to reach. In 2016, students in the Multichannel Trade Management in Textile Business M.A. course at the Hamburg University of Applied Science (HAW Hamburg) tackled this challenge and came up with new ideas and concepts for fashion stores. Pressing questions about who buys what online and offline and sensible assortments needed to be answered first. Eventually, 35 students presented their results to managers and 50 employees at Bonprix, a subsidiary of Hamburg’s Otto Group, and won over their listeners. Professor Oliver Klante said: “Some approaches have been included in the corporate structure. A great success.”
Unique course in Germany
The declared goal of the collaboration between the Otto Group and HAW, which began in 2007, is to ensure the transfer of knowledge between the university and commerce and the return flow. The interdisciplinary course involves the Faculty of Business and Social Sciences, the Faculty of Design, Media and Information and the Otto Group’s diverse subsidiaries. They provide internships and opportunities to gain first-hand experience in their businesses across Germany.
HAW and the Otto Group drew up the syllabus and also set up a new, endowed chair. Klagte stressed: “The course is very special. There is nothing comparable in Germany nor in the sector to train future product managers as textile buyers practically and on a high, scientific level.“
Creative space for innovative concepts
Rising numbers of applicants for only 24 places reflect the keen interest among students. Thanks to the collaboration between commerce and the university, students are close to the labour market and can avail of the creative space at the university to develop and test their ideas. Klante added: “That’s exactly what companies benefit from as they need creative space for developing innovative ideas and positioning themselves on the market in the long-term.”
‘Digital natives’ transferring knowledge
Ongoing digitalisation is presenting new challenges. “Companies need so-called ‘digital natives’ to reach new young, target groups.” Only those who know what motivates these young potential customers, the trends that they like and what online sites they prefer can approach them spot-on. Students can convey this knowledge to corporate representatives “because they are part of the target group”. However, the course should not been seen solely as an educational forge for the Otto Group, Klante underlined. “An average 25 per cent of graduates work for the Otto Group later.” But big companies such as Hugo Boss, Zalando, Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Tailor, Peek & Cloppenburg and Amazon also hire graduates.
Sources and further information: www.haw-hamburg.de