Retailers Turn to UNT Global Digital Retailing Research Center for Innovation

JCPenney, Pier 1 Imports, Sally Beauty and others join forces with tech leaders and UNT’s College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism to empower retail workforce and impact digital evolution

DENTON, Texas – November 10, 2015 – From Pier 1 Imports to Sally Beauty to Edgecase, a leading provider of curated product data, big names in the retail industry are turning to the University of North Texas’ (UNT) Global Digital Retailing Research Center (GDRRC) for thought leadership regarding industry changes.

An arm of the UNT College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism, the center is “blazing a trail for digital retail workforce development,” said Garrett Eastham, chief product officer and co-founder of Edgecase, and member of the center’s Think Tank and College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Toursim Board of Governors.

The university leads the only digital retailing program of this caliber in the U.S., and prioritizes global retailing discovery, industry research and workforce development, with the goal of building a stronger talent pool for retailers looking to enhance their digital foot print.

At a recent meeting in Denton, the center’s Advisory Board and Think Tank leaders met to discuss the changing role of the merchant due to the digital revolution retailers are experiencing today.

“This is an exciting time in retail, as the landscape is changing rapidly. The customer is interacting with a brand across many touch points, which ultimately leads to retailers not only transforming the way they interact with the customer, but also the way in which they internally operate. As a result, there is extremely high demand for digital retailing talent and a relatively small talent pool,” said Stacey Renfro, Senior Vice President of ecommerce, Pier 1 Imports. “The high demand for digital talent is not only for ecommerce roles but for all roles within a retail operation, including buying, planning, IT, supply chain and marketing. This demand will likely continue to increase in the coming decade, and UNT’s GDRRC is the only program in the U.S. that is specifically focused on filling that demand.”

Richard Last, leader of the Digital Retailing degree program at UNT and Chairman Emeritus of, is best known for his work in founding, and believes that students, retailers and educational initiatives across the country benefit from the influence of programs like those at UNT.

“The GDRRC provides a fundamental network of resources for our students to understand the merchandising landscape through industry-collaborative partnerships and learning opportunities, as well as knowledge transfer between practitioners and educators,” said Last. “The retailers that engage in our programming and research are able to stay ahead of their competition, and our philosophy is to help the students in our program build and hone valuable skills that retailers need in the next generation of digital retailing problem solvers.”

“The world of merchandising is rapidly evolving due to the changing nature of consumers’ buying patterns and transaction methods,” said Eastham. “The goal for the Board of Governors at UNT is to stay at the forefront of conversations on how the industry can pivot during this transitional phase in retail, as well as develop top talent to solve the problems every retailer is facing.”

For more information on how to join retailers like JCPenney, Zales, Pier 1 Imports, Sally Beauty and others in their partnership with UNT’s Global Digital Retailing Research Center, please visit the website, and check out the full list of experts on the Global Digital Retailing Research Center Advisory Board and Think Tank.

About the UNT College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism
The UNT College of Merchandising, Hospitality and Tourism is nationally recognized as one of the best of its kind in offering unique degrees that address significant areas of growth and innovation in retail, hospitality and tourism industries. Its hospitality management program is among the largest in the U.S. while it merchandising program is the largest. The college offers the first bachelor’s degree in digital retailing in the U.S. and the first Master of Science program in merchandising offered completely online. And its master’s programs in international sustainable tourism is the first of its kind in the U.S. offering a dual degree from the university and its partner institution, CATIE, in Costa Rica.

UNT Media Contact
Monique Bird

Press Contact
Catherine Seeds (for Edgecase)

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