Retail Round-Up: Belk’s Sale & Polo Shirt Heroes


Welcome back to the Retail Round-Up, my weekly take on the best retail and fashion news.

This week, we’re exploring the impact of a department store acquisition on its small-town customers, evolving design school curriculums and the three most most famous pairs of khakis in the world.

fashion school

Fashion Students Say They Need More Business Training: The Business of Fashion just released its fashion school rankings package. But what I found most interesting wasn’t which school was No. 1 (it was London’s Central Saint Martins). I was more focused on a package story that described how woefully fledgling designers are trained in business principles.

Nowadays, being a designer requires a very unique set of skills. Not only must you be a visionary aesthete, designers must also be commercially oriented marketers and social media gurus. Back in the old days, commerce and creativity were two separate entities — yin and yang and never the twain shall meet.

But in today’s marketplace, designers are more frequently being called to lead the business side as well as the creative efforts. It’s not enough to design a collection — you have to know how much it costs to manufacture and ship it, how to market it and the household income of your target customer. (Christopher Bailey, the current CEO of Burberry is one of the most recent examples of a designer thrust into a business-centric role.)

Design students year for more applicable business experience — including real-world experience like internships, mentorships and corporate projects. (Here’s an editorial in the rankings package that describes how design schools are adding operations and business modeling to their curriculums.)


In Charlotte, Belk is More Than a Store: If you’ve ever shopped south of the Mason-Dixon, you’ve heard of Belk. This week, the chain announced it was being bought by Sycamore Partners, a retail-focused private equity firm. (It also has investments in Hot Topic, Goldwater Creek, Stuart Weitzman and Torrid.

Belk announced that it would not close stores (so far), and that its existing chairman, Thomas Belk, would remain in power. But the chain’s next steps are not altogether clear, either. I will be curious to see what this means for the chain. Will it be bought by another Southern competitor? Will we see a Belk IPO anytime soon?

This story from the Charlotte Observer offers some nice insight and color on Belk’s long-standing resonance with its Southern customers, particularly in small towns.


Heroes in Polos and Khakis: My heart burst with pride when I read about the three brave American tourists who confronted a gunman on the TGV train in France. I was further delighted when I learned that France intended to present the three amigos with the Legion of Honor, France’s highest honor.

And I was even more ecstatic when I saw the humble uniform the young men wore to the elaborate ceremony: polos and khakis. This story gives a little bit of background on the wardrobe choices — the suit shops are closed in August, for example. But from necessity came a set of outfits that perfectly crystallized these heroes’ humility and ingenuity. Bravo.