Senior Business Students Compete in Target Sponsored 48-Hour Case Competition

(Left to right) Rachel Weisse, C.J. Fazio, Melanie Robins and Angela Sereico impressed the panel of judges from Target to win the 2011 case competition.

Senior Philadelphia University business students engaged in an intensive, 48-hour business plan case competition, sponsored by Target Corporation, to improve the retailer’s grocery shopping experiences for customers.

The competition, called “Technology and the Grocery Guest,” started on Oct. 21 with a tour of Target’s local facilities. Students learned about how the company does business in the area and focused on the challenges facing Target’s grocery business. The entire competition was sponsored by Target, including the cost of meals and travel, through a partnership with PhilaU.

“The Target 48-hour case competition is a wonderful opportunity for seniors to showcase their leadership skills and provide a strategic solution to a problem that Target is now facing in their business,” said Amy Slivinski, associate director of the Office of Career Services. “In turn, the competition allows Target to continue to grow their employment brand on-campus and source candidates for full-time positions,” she said, adding, “Target is a heavy recruiter of our students.”

The students worked on the competition as part of their senior capstone course, designing a business plan that would help improve the grocery shopping experience for Target’s customers through technology. “Rising food and gas prices have caused consumers to change their shopping habits,” Target’s contest brief stated. “Industry experts predict they will alter their food habits as well, reallocating some food dollars from eating out to buying groceries, choosing to eat less meat and cooking smaller portions to reduce waste, and buying in bulk.”

The company said that it expects that new technology will play a major role in improving the shopping experience for customers and also help cut internal costs by making the supply chain more efficient, allowing the grocer to field more competitive prices.

Students created proposals focusing on a number of factors including price, presentation, marketing and brands, among others, that would allow Target to better utilize technology to make innovative food strategy decisions.

The winning team – comprised of C.J. Fazio, Melanie Robins, Angela Sereico and Rachel Weisse – impressed a panel of judges from Target on Oct. 24 to claim the $2,000 first-place prize. The team proposed that Target develop a grocery app for mobile devices to engage shoppers both at home and in the store.

“From home they could develop shopping lists and find access to coupons, which were geared to their shopping habits,” Weisse said. “In the store, the application had a guide to allow them to navigate the grocery aisles as efficiently as possible by locating where there items were in the order in which they would find them.”

The contest was judged by Target executives Nicole Monzo, executive team leader for human resources; Faye Clark, group operations leader; Jonathan Ernesto, field segmentation merchant; Amanda Abney, campus recruiter; and Robert Papsun, food business partner.

Lauren Robbins, Shawn D’Andrea, Lauren Jannetti, Veronica Falzone and Dale Mills claimed the $1,000 second-place prize in the contest. Ty Whitaker, Parita Patel, Bonnie Catts, Kristin Ramirez and Sarah Gursky took third place; and Brandy Rodriguez, Kaelyn Smith, Samantha Wolfe and Dava Garvasi placed fourth.

“This competition provided a valuable summary to the students’ education,” said Harvey Lermack, assistant professor of business management. “They learned to assemble quickly into interdisciplinary groups, and within a very tight time frame to creatively use all of their skills to address an actual business problem.  This is experience they just can’t get within a regular classroom setting, and we want to thank Target Corporation for providing the students with this opportunity.”

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