Before the COVID-19 pandemic restricted travel and large gatherings, 12 Retail Management students went on an Experiential Learning Trip to Vancouver for a behind-the-scenes tour of some of today’s leading Canadian retailers.

The trip, which took place during the 2020 February Study Week, was organized by the Retail Student Association (RSA) and was accompanied by Dr. Jenna Jacobson (Assistant Professor, Retail Management) and Sean Sedlezky (Manager, Program Design – Retail Management). Students had the unique opportunity to tour the head offices of Aritzia, Lululemon, Arc’teryx and Hootsuite and hear from senior executives. The group also had a private “Clothing the World Tour” at the Museum of Anthropology, a Gastown food tour, as well as the chance to explore the city.

While students enjoyed this unique experiential learning opportunity, the Retail Management program also offers many virtual opportunities to learn from experts on the front lines of the industry and understand how the industry is adapting and changing. The program looks forward to offering other experiential trips once COVID-19 travel restrictions are lifted.

Here is what a few students had to say about their experience:

Tessa Duggan
The Experiential Retail Trip 2020 to Vancouver was an amazing experience! Getting to observe and learn about the retail landscape in Vancouver was an excellent way to gain first-hand experience about another retail market. Speaking to industry professionals and exploring the head offices of Hootsuite, Aritzia, Lululemon and Arc’teryx was incredible.

Listening to company executives talk about their experience at the company and in the retail industry was inspiring, and I believe everyone was able to get a lot of value out of their presentation. We also had time to explore the more cultural side of Vancouver by going to Granville Island Market, visiting UBC campus and the Museum of Anthropology and doing a walking food tour in Gastown.

Kevin Young
The RSA Vancouver Experiential trip is most definitely going into my Ryerson highlight reel. Visiting the medley of different retail companies gave a variety of new insights, from atmospherics and analytics to marketing and innovation. Throughout the tours and the panels, it was very interesting to see theories and strategies taught in class implemented in the real world. Along with a peek into all the intricacies that it takes to produce products we consume, the trip wasn’t just educational. We were also able to explore different boroughs of Vancouver and even take a five-stop food tour in Gastown.

Athena Mok
The highlight of the Vancouver trip was visiting Aritzia’s head office. During our visit, I was intrigued learning about the extent of work and dedication Artizia achieves to ensure quality in their products, stores, operations and overall company.

Something I will take with me from this trip and for my future aspirations is the value of branding yourself. While visiting Hootsuite, Nick Martin (Global Social Engagement Specialist) shared his experience of how branding himself eventually led him to the career he has today. His words encouraged me to think about and take steps to brand myself by furthering my experience and exploring activities outside of academics to contribute to my personal branding.

Amara Purmasir
The highlight of this trip was going to Aritzia’s headquarters and getting to know them as a company and the group of individuals that make Aritizia possible. During the presentation, I found it very interesting that they hire from within and as you grow within the company, the employees get a better understanding of the business as well.

Listening to Pippa Morgan (Executive Vice President, Retail Division) explain her time at Aritzia and her experience seeing the company grow was interesting and inspiring. I learned that every company has a very unique approach to success and various values that they believe make their company great and different compared to others.

This trip gave me a better understanding of retail and allowed me to have a better understanding of different positions and functions in the industry.  It also gave me a better idea of where I would like to go career-wise in years to come.

Muhammad Khattak
I learned from Nick Martin from Hootsuite that making connections is very beneficial, and from that, I have made connections with the industry professionals as well as with the other students I travelled with. This trip was a good chance for me to get better acquainted with people I have never formally met, which is my top takeaway.

I will remember the beautiful views of Vancouver such as the mountains, as well as the Gastown tour. I have learned from the industry professionals not only about their work history and how they landed their current positions, but also the fact that if you work hard, you can achieve anything you want to.

Christina Masschelei
The Experiential Vancouver Retail Trip was an amazing experience. Vancouver’s retail scene is different than that of Toronto’s and it was nice to be able to compare them in person. It was also an opportunity to become closer with other students in my program across all years.

During the trip, we got to visit iconic Canadian retailers such as Aritzia, Lululemon, Arc’teryx and Hootsuite. One of the things I learned from listening to the speakers from each brand is that it takes a lot of hard work to become successful and that there is always something new that retailers face and need to adapt to.

Posted by Debra Rughoo

Debra Rughoo is a Writing and Content Specialist at the Ted Rogers School of Management.