From theory to practice: IFTM iRetail Lab

By Zhuo, Li (Catherine) and Lourenço, Fernando 

As the gaming destination of the Asia Pacific Region, Macao has strategically strengthened its leading position with its array of themed casino resorts which offer integrated leisure experience of gaming, hospitality and retail. The rapid development of the gaming industry has consequently paved the way for the remarkably successful retail industry which compelled internationally known retail boutiques and flagship stores to position themselves in Macao and make their presence known. Undeniably, this robust development of the retail sector has driven the demand for retail talents who can professionally manage and operate brand and retail businesses.

Dr. Fernando Lourenço is an Assistant Professor at IFTM
Dr. Zhuo Li (Catherine) is a Lecturer at IFTM’s School of Tourism Management – Coordinator for Tourism Retail and Marketing Management Programme

In 2009, in response to the talent demand in retail and marketing a new Bachelor’s Degree Programme in Tourism Retail and Marketing Management was launched at the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies, an institute that has ranked 14thworldwide among higher education institutions in hospitality and leisure management, according to the “QS World University Rankings by Subject 2020”. As part of institute’s continuous improvement programme,  a programme curriculum review has been undertaken integrating key stakeholders’ valuable inputs as well as benchmarking similar programmes around the world. The curriculum review output has highlighted the role of practical learning in retail management education. In order to provide more comprehensive retail management training, the institute has established the iRetail Lab training unit as a platform for students to learn retail and marketing management in practice.

The lab has modern décor, black-and-white color scheme, with up-to-ceiling black rectangle frames and colored led panels, that creates a contemporary learning space for the students. The concept is a space described as “learning lab” for students to have simulated retail study environment and real-life practices. Throughout the programme, at least six retail and marketing management related subjects will utilize the lab for the practical related learning and teaching sessions  for more contextualized exercises. 

The lab also simulates a real retail store with themed retail areas including cosmetics, jewelry, apparel and souvenir (travel souvenir). These themes feature the popular product categories for tourists who visit Macao, and the theme can be changed from time to time to response to the changing trend. By adopting “lab” approach, flexible fixtures and furniture have been used throughout the store for students to experiment new product display ideas. There are two tablets located inside the Lab where customers can view the product information and complete transactions. A fully-functional e-store will be run side by side with the physical iRetail Lab store where students can learn how to design and manage omni-channel experience. Supervised by the course lecturers, the Lab and the ecommerce site are to be fully operated by the students to enhance their understanding in marketing and retail management. IFTM is also working on connecting the retail space with Macao’s creative industry by displaying and selling merchandise range that have been developed by the local designers.

As a space for the implementation of institute-industry collaborations, established brands and creative art entrepreneurs will be invited to demonstrate their branding and design ideas inside the lab. Thus, the Lab can be put to good use to meet the needs of the industry partners as well as for students’ learning. 

Different from other retail and marketing management programmes, Macao Institute for Tourism Studies has put strong emphasis on “theory into practice” through integrating practicum, internship, group business project and consultancy project with real business clients in its curriculum. The establishment of new lab certainly adds another learning platform for students to demonstrate theory into practice. 

The establishment of the iRetail Lab will enable Macao Institute for Tourism Studies to nurture more retail talents with comprehensive professional knowledge and technical competence who will take the lead in the flourishing Macao retail industry.