UM business students learn label manufacturing in Windy City
Published 9:00 am Sunday, December 31, 2023
Retail association’s gathering proved a positive learning experience for many
By Lindsey White
Four University of Mississippi business students are among 24 college students chosen to participate in the Private Label Manufacturers Association’s annual University Outreach program.
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The group met Nov. 11-14 in Chicago in conjunction with PLMA’s annual trade show. The program provided students with an immersive experience in the grocery retailing and store-brand industry.
“By seeing the industry through both the perspective of buyer and seller, the students gained valuable insights into the many career opportunities that exist within the private label industry,” said Clay Dockery, Ole Miss marketing alumnus and PLMA ex officio.
The Ole Miss students participating in the program included the following:
- Jessica Beavers, a junior general business and accelerated law program major from Rocklin, Calif.
- Lauren Bender, a senior risk management and insurance and real estate major from Franklin, Tenn.
- Kyle Major, a sophomore finance major from Allendale, N.J.
- Edward Shaw, a senior entrepreneurship major from Burnet, Texas.
“Our business students received a prized opportunity to connect with and learn from professionals and experts in the retail, manufacturing and consumer product industries,” said Meg Barnes, PLMA faculty adviser and instructor of management. “They also engaged in a product ideation workshop with teams conceptualizing, assessing for consumer and needs gaps, justifying, merchandising and ultimately sketching and visualizing a design detail.”
Students were assigned to different teams for a competitive challenge during the workshop.
“The team with Jessica Beavers generated the runner-up-winning design with an innovative healthy food take on Rice Cakes To-Go,” Barnes said. “I am proud of these four selected students as representatives of Ole Miss business in this immersive and hands-on PLMA experience.”
The program included two days of university-level classes featuring an overview of retailing and store-brand development in the U.S. and internationally, the role of manufacturers and retailers, consumer retail psychology, store brand innovation, the power of artificial intelligence and career orientation, along with a tour of nearby stores with private label programs.
It also provided two days under the mentorship of practicing professionals in the buying and selling divisions of retail businesses. Participating retailers included Acme, Albertsons, Aldi, Amazon, Costco, CVS, Dollar General, Food Lion, Fred Meyer, Giant, H-E-B, Jewel-Osco, Kroger, Meijer, Publix, Safeway, Shop Rite, Sprouts, Stop & Shop, Target, Trader Joe’s, Walgreens, Walmart, Wegmans and Whole Foods.
“My PLMA experience was nothing short of fantastic,” Bender said. “It was very eye-opening to see all the work that goes into the private label industry. I was able to see firsthand negotiation, trade show setup, product marketing, consumer psychology and so much more.”