Inside a Top Fashion Merchandising Program: A Discussion with Sookhyun Kim of Johnson & Wales University

Studying fashion merchandising enables a student to pursue a career in the fashion or retail industry. One of the top schools for this major is Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte, North Carolina. We recently spoke with Dr. Sookhyun Kim, an assistant professor of fashion merchandising at the institution.

By Jeff Calareso

Johnson and Wales

Dr. Sookhyun Kim arrived at Johnson & Wales University after earlier teaching roles at Central Michigan University and the University of Rhode Island. Prior to her teaching career, she worked as an international merchandiser at a buying office. She was drawn to Johnson & Wales for its prestigious fashion merchandising program, which was known for responding to industry trends.

Q. How did you become interested in the field of fashion merchandising?

A. I am originally from South Korea, where people are highly fashion-conscious. The fashion industry was the number one area students wanted to work in when I was a high school student.

Q. Your research work has been widely published. Please describe your major research areas for our readers.

A. My research interests are in retailing and consumer behavior. I'm especially interested in retail, such as supply chain management, and consumer evolution across different countries, including Korea, China, India, Japan and the U.S. I've done research about brand marketing and global supply chain management as well. I also published articles in other subject areas to respond to industry needs, such as Internet retailing, luxury fashion brands and the promotional strategy of shopping malls.

Q. Do you have any current research projects you'd like to tell us about?

A. I'm currently working on global brand expansion, especially between western and eastern countries. I observed that companies hesitate to expand their business into countries which have significant different cultural backgrounds (e.g., expansion of a western country's brand into eastern countries and vice versa). Also, I'm doing research on e-tailing, consumers' cross-shopping behavior between online stores and store-based retail stores.

Q. What courses are you currently teaching, and what courses do you typically teach each year?

A. I'm currently teaching courses on comparative retail strategies, the business of fashion and visual merchandising using computer-aided design. I typically teach classes on retail-related issues and globalization. These include global supply chain management, international marketing, global consumers and global retailing.

Q. What course do you enjoy teaching the most? Why?

A. I most enjoy retail strategies and visual merchandising because I can connect current industry trends and professionals with the classes and teach a technology.

Q. What type of background or interests best prepares a student for a career in fashion merchandising?

A. Students should have passion for fashion and being a fashion leader. They should not be afraid of trying new things and challenging themselves. They should also be good at numbers, including analytical skills.

Q. Do you know what careers some of your students have pursued in recent years after graduation? Also, what is the job market like for these students?

A. J&W offers lots of hands-on experiences throughout various classes, including a required internship in order to effectively prepare students for the industry. Recently, a student received an internship offer while visiting a company during a New York field trip. Students are highly interested in and pursue retail buyer, store manager and visual merchandiser jobs. Some students want to open their own store, so they choose this major to study store operations, merchandising, marketing and management.

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