#ThisIsTRSM: Retail Innovation in the Heart of Downtown Toronto

Dr. Mark Lee can’t imagine a better place to study retail management than in the heart of one of Canada’s busiest shopping hubs. “Our location is one of our biggest advantages. Students can go to the Eaton Centre and do an observational study or an analysis of a retail store. We have connections to so many different types of stores in the area.”

Mark Lee

Dr. Lee is an Associate Professor at the Ted Rogers School of Retail Management and joined TRSM in 2015. Here, Dr. Lee tells us about retail’s wide range of possibilities, how Ryerson’s multiculturalism contributes to a unique learning environment, and why a five-minute video documentary beats a 50-page research paper.

What type of research do you do?

First, I look at social network implications. How the flow of influence works within a consumer network and how influential or influenced an individual is depending on their location within a social network.

The second aspect of my research is sensory marketing and retail atmospherics. Looking at temperatures and light and how they affect the consumer’s experience.

Third, because I’m so passionate about teaching, I do a lot of marketing teaching work. I research how to improve marketing/retail education within the classroom.

Why is TRSM the right institution to support your research?

Some institutions are very research-based and some are very teaching-focused. One thing I really like about Ryerson is that it’s truly balanced. Ryerson has the Learning & Teaching Office, which supports teaching, but at the same time there’s lots of research support. I’m involved with the Scholarly, Research and Creative Activity Committee and the Learning & Teaching Committee. I wanted to find a university where teaching is valued, because I do so much – not only at Ryerson and TRSM but at a national level, such as at the Innovations in Teaching competition at the Society for Marketing Advances conference.

What are your strategies for keeping lectures engaging and interactive?

By getting to know everyone’s name, the classroom starts to feel much smaller. Not only for me, but for the students – they don’t just feel like faces in the crowd anymore. A large class size doesn’t diminish what’s possible; everything is just done at a larger scale.

Most of my courses are designed so that I’m lecturing half the time and the other half is very activity-based. Students actually physically go outside to do an activity. Students may interview a client, for example. Students don’t just write a paper, but create a video documentary or a slideshow presentation, or find a creative way to present vocally. I try to use diverse methods so that students can learn different techniques and skills.

TRSM students are a unique group – how are they different from students at other universities?

The biggest difference I notice is the multicultural aspect. Here the population is much more diverse, so even through group assignments or reading through my students’ work, the diversity shows. That’s a true strength of Ryerson. Multiculturalism provides different perspectives and provides students with a different appreciation for diversity.

TRSM is located at Bay and Dundas, right beside the Eaton Centre. How does TRSM’s urban location contribute to your teaching?

Our location is our biggest advantage, especially for Retail Management courses. At my previous school, if students went outside to do an activity, they were still on campus. Here, I can tell them to go to the Eaton Centre and do an observational study or an analysis of a retail store, or retail atmospheric exercise. All of these exercises can be done essentially right next door. We have connections to so many different types of stores in the area.

When people think of Retail Management, many think fashion, but it’s a myth that retail is all clothing. That’s definitely a good percentage of the industry, but retail also involves groceries, banking, and a lot of other sectors, which are all within walking distance of TRSM. So it’s great for students to have an idea of all of retail’s possibilities.

Can you give some examples of fun experiential learning projects you assign to your students?

One project I really like to assign for the Applied Retail Research course (RMG 700) is a video documentary. Students conduct a research study and make a documentary about why they’re doing it, the research question, their research methods, and the retail stores they partner with. It’s a good summary video of their research and findings and they also get the practical experience of working with an actual retail store.

For the Introduction to Retail and Services Management course (RMG 200), I ask students to do a guerrilla marketing campaign for a store, using unconventional methods, and create a video documentary about it. They document what they’ve done, but they can also give that video to the retail store or present it to other people.

I’ve always disliked getting students to write 50-page papers. It’s not a great way to present, and employers aren’t going to read 50 pages. But if you create a five- or six-minute video documentary of your research study, it’s a unique format you can share with other people. It provides a different format for students to share their work, and it works out wonderfully.

My favourite assignment is called “Iron Inventor,” which is like Iron Chef. I divide the students into teams, and each team is given the same set of dollar store items, which they use to come up with a product. Using theoretical knowledge learned from class, they come up with the best product possible. They have to justify why the product would be successful, what markets they should target, which retail stores the product should go into, whether it should it be sold online or offline, etc. It’s a really fun competition. They build fantastic prototypes for what the product could be.

Want to learn more about retail management’s wide range of possibilities? Check out our website to find out more about Retail Management at TRSM.

Are you a current TRSM student or thinking of joining us in the future? Share your TRSM story with the hashtag #ThisIsTRSM.