Summer 2016, I had to opportunity to intern with Belk for 10 weeks in their Charlotte headquarters. I was a Merchandising (buying and planning) intern and was assigned to the Men’s Bottoms and Active wear department. My incentive coming in was to better understand the analytics of running a business from supply chain to product development and marketing strategy. I had experience with the creative/customer facing side of marketing but I strongly believe that to be a successful entrepreneur, one must have a balance with the analytics too. Belk was a prime choice for me because the culture complemented my personality + beliefs.
During my time there, I used Excel to analyze vendor reports on competitive landscape, assortment/style selling and stores performance. With the data, I evaluated Belk’s standing and sought growth opportunities for the Levi’s. I also learnt inventory management, advertising processes and trend analysis.
At the end of my internship, I presented a Levi’s growth opportunity plan and proposed a marketing strategy for implementation. I also designed a men’s pants style guide as a marketing tool aiming to improve customer’s in-store/online experience and empower sales associates on Levi’s assortments.
My time at Belk was splendid. Honestly, my team played a huge part in making my summer experience successful. It’s so important to surround yourself with great minded people because it’s a reflection of your own success especially as an entrepreneur. If I were in a team that was not as supportive, this story would be very different.
I left with a deeper love for marketing because I was fortunate to experience it from a different perspective. I developed my skills in market/competitive analysis, trend analysis and critical thinking. I was most astonished by how much I enjoyed marketing analysis and deriving solution through numbers. Most importantly, I learnt the art of telling stories with numbers. My perspective on marketing broadened because prior to the internship, I had skills in creative writing, social media + editorial campaigns and enhancing user experience. I’m happy I stayed open minded and did not gravitate towards things I know I had a penchant for. My expectations on merchandising were skewed coming in however I grew to love the reality.
It helped that Belk was an established department store because I had a first-hand glimpse on how a large corporation functions. I was able to apply a lot of what I learnt to LAJA and make modifications on my current strategies. In the period of my internship, a new CEO (Lisa Harper) was elected and I had the opportunity to chat with her. It was risky email the CEO directly to set up a meeting but it’s not everyday you see a new CEO elected either. I had nothing to loose. Worst case scenerio, I’d be rejected or ignored. Entrepreneurship is so unpredictable and it’s important to take advantage of every opportunity that presents. It’s also about taking initiative to ask for what you want and to keep moving if the outcome isn’t to your liking.
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