The soft opening of iRetail Lab

By Belina Lei  

IFTM Comments is a partnership between Macau News Agency and Macao Institute for Tourism Studies

The Macao Institute for Tourism Studies (IFTM) launched a new training unit – iRetail Lab  and hosted two soft openings in May 2021. Two years ago, the teaching team for the Retail and Marketing Management programmme  of the School of Tourism Management at IFTM started the idea of building up a “Lab” unit for training, education, and research purposes. Since Macau’s retail sector is one of the most diversified and fertile areas within the tourism and hospitality industry, the goal of this lab is to offer a win-win platform for local designers to showcase their designs and provide practical retail training for IFTM students.

Belina Lei is a lecturer of IFTM

In the past eight months, the iRetail Lab setup team reached out to the Department for Promoting Cultural and Creative Industries and IFTM alumni, and through referral, fourteen local designers have signed an agreement with IFTM to display and sell their products in the lab. The designers have visited the lab and participated in the discussion on how to better utilize the lab space.

In the first phase, the lab has adopted the theme of celebration by collaborating with 6 designers. Students have been actively involved in the initial phase of the store set up, through the class of Merchandising Management, 6 groups of year 3 retail students working closely with the course lecturer to determine the theme and also the designer brands. Students have also studied the target customer preferences by rolling out an online analysis, based on the study results, they have selected the designers, devised the product assortment, set the product display area, decided the element for store design, and helped with visual merchandising for the soft opening. To explore future potential collaborators for the lab, the teaching team has visited the designers, brand owners, studios, experiment lab, Macao International Trade & Investment Fair (MIF), Tap Seac Craft Market, retailers, and malls.

iRetail Lab serves as a platform for the local designers to sell their products and to showcase their creative work. At the same time, it offers an all-around training experience to students. Lecturers and professors from IFTM hosted several sessions of training in the lab, including topics such as brand & product knowledge, Point of Sales (POS), customer journey, soft-selling skills, visual merchandising (VM), retail store daily operation, customer relationship management (CRM), and in-store events. Students have been experimenting with the front-end and back-end operation scenarios. One said, “IFTM made a great choice by selecting these local brands and matched with the student’s preferences. It’s going to be an unforgettable experience for the students’ learning journey at the lab. As a student, I’ve learned lots of practical skills by serving customers. The Lab allowed students to experiment with the retail operations, monitor several brands together with individual brand heritage”.

Another student said, “we learned to manage a retail location, merchandise, and brand heritage… these all are more complicated than I have expected before joining this project. The experience here has enriched and strengthened my degree program and made it more practical. Happy to study here! In my opinion, the Lab is conducive for retail students, where they can learn the course content that cannot be learned from books. We were amazed to have this practice in the Lab, before working in the industry.”

 In the next phase, the lab is planning to set up its online space and social media platform. A different theme will be introduced throughout the year to reflect the seasonality of the retail market in Macao. IFTM is excited to continue developing the lab and experiment more with students to enrich their four years’ academic journey at IFTM.