Students Win Big at Walmart Challenge

Kutztown, Pa – The Center for Retailing Solutions (CRS) in conjunction with Walmart sponsored the 1st Walmart Collegiate Challenge.  Student teams from area colleges came to Kutztown on Wednesday, April 18, 2012 to deliver their presentations and find out if their team made it to the winner’s circle.  Dr. James Ogden, a business professor at Kutztown University and President of the CRS emceed the event.  Teams from Kutztown University, Penn State Berks, and Penn State Lehigh Valley competed.  Each school was allowed a maximum of three teams.  The challenge was for the teams to create a plan that focuses on sales, profits, and overall, customer experience, and was judged based on three categories:  the written plan, the store visit, and the presentation of the plan.
Each winning team received a plaque.  The grand prize winner was the Nittany Group from Penn State Lehigh Valley, who received a ‘traveling’ trophy to be housed at Penn State Lehigh Valley until next year’s challenge. These winners also received a $250 Walmart gift card and a personalized coaching and training session for the team from The Total Solutions, Group, Inc
The 1st runners up were from Kutztown (Team 3).  2nd runners up were from Penn State Lehigh Valley (Nittany Lion Consulting).  Finally the 3rd runners up were from Penn State Berks. 
“The next generation of business leaders and retail leaders… are in this room,” exclaimed Ogden, noting the talent and determination of the participants.  The judges were Tim Smyer, Walmart Market Manager, Jack Gottlieb, President and CEO of Total Solutions Group, Ashish Patel and Walmart Market HR Manager.  While the judges deliberated, Walmart representatives spoke to students about their presentations and about opportunities at Walmart.  Presenters for this session were Gerrit Bandison, Walmart Regional HR Director, Steve Lauthers, and Britt Roberts-Faulk, both store managers.

  Gerrit Bandison, Walmart Regional HR Director
“One thing that I was also impressed with was the budget plan,” began Bandison.  “I think teams spent a lot of good time analyzing, going through the data, coming up with factual costs associated with your presentation.” 
“I mean, I learned a lot.  Some of it was kind of close to home.  Someone mentioned palettes on the floor, boy, I was hoping there weren’t any on my floor,” joked Steve.  “I also loved the technology part.  “I liked that most of you came up with very specific customer touch points, instead of the big broad overview of how we impact the entire store… we mentioned areas that are very important to our customers that are easily impacted,”
“The one thing that I like is to listen to presenters that catch my attention, so if somebody gets up there that’s very riveting or funny, then that catches my attention,” said Roberts-Faulk.  She also noted that many participants knew the Walmart lingo, which was impressive.  She also stressed “professional dress” which “really does make a difference,” as well as making good eye contact and having good volume.
Upon conclusion of the awards ceremony, it was announced that the Collegiate Challenge will run every year with a different sponsor.
All participants, judges, and other attendees boarded the stage for a group picture, taken by Peter Hornberger, blended learning and consulting specialist of the Kutztown University Small Business Development Center.

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