Target Corp. Seeks Big Ideas from UT Students

Published: Oct 31, 2007
Like any business, Target is constantly looking for creative, out of the box solutions for its retail business challenges. So it’s looking to business students at The University of Tampa for fresh ideas.

Target has given UT students two case studies, on how Target can recruit top hourly and executive team members and on how the company can use technology to increase grocery sales at its SuperTarget stores. Groups of students in the Sykes College of Business class Practical Strategic Assessment have broken up into groups of four to analyze the problems and seek creative solutions.

A UT professor will pick the top four proposals, and Target will ultimately choose which group’s solution is the most creative, realistic, and best presented. A winner will be chosen on Dec. 7.

It is the first time Target has coordinated such a program on UT’s campus. Executives hope it will “expose students to actual challenges that retailers face in today’s competitive marketplace,” and to incorporate classroom learning into real world business challenges. The company is coordinating a similar competition at one other Florida university.

Minneapolis-based Target has 1,591 stores in 47 states.

Jody Tompson, associate professor of management and director of the UT Naimoli Institute for Business Strategy, said the competition is great experience for business students, and allows Target to achieve two major objectives: recruit future employees; and hear some new solutions to its business challenges.

“The competition allows students to get real world experience dealing with strategic thinking in a competitive marketplace,” Tompson said. “And at the same time Target gets some fresh, out of the box solutions to real world problems.”

In one case study, Target asks: “How can we better utilize technology to innovate our food strategy so our guests think of Target first when it comes to food?” Students are then expected to develop a strategy, perform a SWOT (strengths/weaknesses/opportunities/threats) analysis, explore topics including price, product, marketing, trends and economy, and make recommendations.

The Target Case Study Program is well suited for testing at the University of Tampa, as one of the goals of the UT Naimoli Institute for Business Strategy is to have students develop long-term business strategies for area companies. Each graduate and undergraduate business student team works with a particular company for a semester, analyzes the company and the industry and formulates a new strategy for success.

Tompson said he expects students in the Target program will similarly learn from the challenges of formulating real-world business strategy.

“This is the kind of training students can’t get from a textbook,” Tompson said. “We’re hoping this program will spur another company to host a similar case study competition in the spring.”

The Web site for the Naimoli Institute is naimoli.ut.edu.