Dr. Jane Thomas is a professor of Marketing at Winthrop, and she recently had an amazing opportunity to go to a conference in Europe. She kindly wrote us a guest blog post giving some details from her exciting trip!
Early Friday morning March 8 I left on an adventure to France and Spain with 12 other Winthrop CBA students. The purpose of the trip was to explore the culture and business environment of Paris, Montpellier, Nimes, Avignon, and Barcelona.
We arrived in Paris at 6am on Saturday March 9th. The city was quiet and the sun was shinning. Despite our sleepy state, we immediately started touring the city. Our first stop was the Eiffel Tower. Naturally we all took pictures of this famous icon. What surprised me was how quiet and deserted the city was at 9am. About 11am the city started to come alive. Saturday was a free day and of course I spent the day doing research (aka: shopping). My journey started at the Champs Elysses. Each store I entered offered a view of different fashion tastes and retail operations. One of the more interesting observations was observed in Zara. Before entering the dressing room each person swiped their handbag against an electronic device that would identify sensors in their handbag. In other words, if you had placed an unpaid item in your handbag an alarm would sound. Each customer swiped their handbag a second time when they left the dressing room. I had never seen this type of anti-shoplifting device, but thought it was very effective.
I lusted over items in many store windows and touched garments that were so expensive that I did not even bother to check the price tag. I knew that I could not afford them. However, there is nothing like the sensation of experiencing a couture collection. For me a dress is a work of art. I inspect the fabric and seams. I touch the garment to experience the hand and them imagine the person who would wear this garment. To some my research might seem trivial, but for me this type of field research provides opportunities to use my background in textiles and consumer behavior.
After exploring the couture lines I then moved onto mass fashion retailers. I always go to retailers that I cannot find in the US. One of my favorite places was Galleries Lafayette. At first glance this retailer seemed no different than Macy’s; however, when I entered the store I experienced something different than just another department store. The Paris store is the flagship store and covers more than a city block. I have been into large department stores in other cities and countries, but Galleries Lafayette is one of my new favorites. The food section of the store was my favorite department. The combination of fresh, prepared, and packaged food was visually stimulating and enticing. I wanted to buy, taste, and take home many of the foods that I saw.
After a long day of research the group assembled for a nice Parisian dinner.
On Thursday we traveled by train to Barcelona, Spain. Here we experienced a different language and culture. We visited Roca bathroom fixture store and experienced a showroom that was like nothing I had ever seen. As you entered the show room you saw a wall (avatars) of people going through their bathroom grooming rituals. You saw Dad’s shaving and then teaching their son how to shave and tie a tie. Young boy’s “checking themselves out” in the mirror and girls painting their toenails. This exhibit made me think about all of the things we do in a bathroom. The private moments that are culturally and socially inspired.
In the Rocca showroom we saw an Armani tub that cost $7,000. Bathroom fixtures designed to help protect the environment (think about water use) and to be used in small spaces were the norm. After visiting the showroom I felt like my new bathrooms at home were somehow antique.
We arrived home on Sunday March 16th at 1am. Tired but filled with memories of a fun and enriching Spring Break.