The family foundation of businessman Albert “Aldo” Bensadoun, BCom ‘64 and founder and former CEO of Aldo Group, donated $25 million to McGill in May to fund a new school of retail management. The university is drawing up plans to transform 8,000 sq. feet of space in the Bronfman building into a state of the art Retail Innovation Lab with renovation slated to begin in summer 2018. Students will be able to register for classes at the Bensadoun School of Retail Management beginning in the Fall 2018 semester.
Bensadoun’s gift comes at a time when the retail industry is undergoing dramatic changes. Department stores such as Macy’s and JCPenney are finding themselves eclipsed by online retailers like Amazon.com, which are able to offer competitive prices and allow customers to shop from their smartphone or tablet. As such, the Bensadoun School of Retail Management aims to confront the fast-changing retail landscape through an interdisciplinary approach.
“The proposed school […] will train future leaders of the retail industry to adapt better to a sector that has become increasingly advanced and complex, particularly from a technological standpoint,” Isabelle Bajeux-Besnainou, dean of the Desautels Faculty of Management, wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune.
McGill will become one of the few universities in Canada to offer a specialized program in retail management. Among others is the Ted Rogers School of Retail Management at Ryerson University, which offers an undergraduate degree with an optional co-operative program, allowing students to gain practical work experience while earning credits.
The upcoming Retail Innovation Lab differentiates McGill’s retail management program from other universities’. It will provide experiential learning opportunities as well as a place to test the latest retail technologies.
“The Retail innovation Lab will house an omni-channel retail operation in online and traditional retail settings,” Bajeux-Besnainou wrote. “The Lab will link directly to the study of data and pricing analytics, efficacy of different payment systems, consumer behavior and global value change management, while providing data sets for research and courses.”
According to Bajeux-Besnainou, the Retail Innovation Lab will also invite partner retailers to install pop-up stores to test various retail innovations. Student and faculty researchers will collect data for further research.
For Saibal Ray, a professor of Operations Management in the Desautels Faculty of Management, now is an opportune time to start a new school in retail management.
“Given the changes that [have] happened in the retail sector during the last two decades or so due to various reasons—technology, demographics, globalization—and the changes that are going to take place in the near future, [retail] is a sector that we think is ready for serious examination from all perspectives—research, teaching, training,” Ray wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune.
According to Ray, administrators hope to modernize the school of retail management’s curriculum by seeking input from professors in neuroscience and engineering. The school plans to offer degrees at the undergraduate, master’s, and PhD.
Students including Megan Munroe, U3 Marketing, responded positively to the creation of the Bensadoun School of Retail Management.
“Based on experience, the topics I’ve studied in BCom, while helpful and educational in their own right, are broad and theory-based,” Munroe wrote in an email to The McGill Tribune. “It seems that this new school would provide a more detail-oriented and hands-on approach to learning the content, and I think that’s perhaps a more effective way to learn this subject matter.”
A previous version of this article incorrectly stated that construction on the Retail Innovation Lab would begin in January 2018. In fact, construction is scheduled to begin in summer 2018. The Tribune regrets this error.