GFM NY Seminar: Priceless

By Elka Gruenberg (Class of 2016),
Northeast Account Executive, Simone Perele 

Students from HK, Paris and NY enjoy some fresh air together as they take a quick break from site visits and lectures of intensive 10 day NY Seminar.

If you were walking down East 55th Street one afternoon in early October, you may have happened across dozens of giddy adults pouring out onto the street; visibly elated, exhausted, chattering non-stop in half a dozen languages, and making a beeline for celebratory drinks.  What you would have seen would have been students from FIT’s GFM Program – with their colleagues from IFM and HKPU – emerging from the New York Seminar after delivering case study presentations.

Students giving their case study presentation

To be fair… we were warned…. multiple times…by all of our professors, advisors, and older students…“Be prepared not to sleep” and  “You’re going to work harder than you’ve ever worked before.”

Students work on their case study presentations in between site visits and lectures

Yet we eagerly dove into the seminar, enthusiastically meeting our new colleagues and forming our case study teams. What followed was ten days of unremitting learning. Nights were spent continuously working and re-working angles of the case study.

Group work

Our days, however, were spent being lectured by some of the retail industry’s most influential and accomplished players.

I won’t lie; it felt a bit like a commercial…

Metro Card. $2.50. 
Morning double latte. $4.50…
Asking advice from Anna Bakst, who launched Michael Kors Footwear and Accessories and built it into a multi-billion dollar business…Priceless.

Anna Bakst speaks to GFM students
Anna Bakst, President, Accessories and Footwear at Michael Kors

While I’m sure she could have easily picked twice as many speakers, Pamela Ellsworth, Chair of GFM, assembled a group of experts who covered the entire span of the retail horizon.

Kevin Ryan – founder of Gilt Groupe – walked us through how he launched the luxury flash sale site. He challenged us to ask, “Why will people use this product,” at every point in product development. He also reminded us that while ideas are great, “The idea is only moderately important. Execution is everything.”

We learned how securing private equity is like dating; how manufacturers are positioned to become direct conduits to retail; and in this day and age every company is a tech company.

All of the speakers pushed us to expand our understanding of the retail experience.

Today’s consumer is more global, more tech savvy, more environmentally conscious and more demanding than ever before. To keep up, we need to be constantly aware of what is happening around the world. Luckily, all I have to do to keep up is Skype with any of my case study teammates in Paris, Casablanca, Geneva, or Hong Kong.