x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Mixing retail theory with retail therapy

Field trip to shopping mall gives business students an opportunity to study marketing and consumer behaviour in the real world.

A shopper leaves Marina Mall  in Abu Dhabi with his purchases.
A shopper leaves Marina Mall in Abu Dhabi with his purchases.

A lecturer is allowing his business students to mix retail theory with a touch retail therapy by holding field trips in shopping malls. Dr Nnamdi Madichie recently took a group of students from the University of Sharjah to the Mall of the Emirates to study marketing, consumer behaviour and the diversity of the UAE's economy as part of their bachelor of business administration course. It was the first of what he hopes will become regular trips. His next will be to Dubai Festival City in the new year.

"It's hands-on, something that helps them appreciate how consumers behave in a real retail environment rather than something in a classroom," Dr Madichie said. "It's a real-life lesson and I even gave them a lecture in the mall. "They thought it was innovative teaching. It was getting them out of Sharjah to Dubai to see what they are learning about; how it plays out in the real world. "It worked quite nicely for them because it was coming to the end of the semester, so it was something different."

One topic the students look at is income and social class. They studied a range of shops to understand how these are reflected in retail. Dr Madichie said a good example for the 15 female students was Centrepoint, a multi-brand centre with fashion stores for different age groups. "It has brands aimed at different market segments, something for everyone," he said. "Marketers need to understand how consumers think and tailor their products to that thinking."

Another area of interest was an indoor copy of a high street, with many top-end fashion stores. "They have structured it so it looks like a place outdoors you're walking down, like a street in Milan or Paris. "They picked up a dress that was about Dh25,000 (US$6,800). You could tell by looking at the shops they were targeted at the rich - international brands at the high end of the market." The UAE is sometimes described as having a "dual economy", in which people can pay widely varying prices for similar goods or services, depending upon how much they are prepared to spend.

"There are retail outlets targeted at the high end of the market and at the mass market. This is all accommodated within the system so no particular market segment is excluded," said Dr Madichie, a Nigerian national who moved from teaching posts in England to the UAE in August. dbardsley@thenational.ae