Careers, community and innovation are the key components of a new brand awareness campaign announced Thursday in Tucson by the CEO of the National Retail Federation.

Matthew Shay spoke to about 350 retailing professionals, consultants, senior executives and University of Arizona students gathered at Loews Ventana Canyon for the first day of the UA's annual Global Retailing Conference.

The federation's "This Is Retail" campaign will rely on retailers and executives - big and small - to help attract students to take up careers in the industry.

"Retail is more than the sales associate at the store," Shay said. "People don't realize there's more to it. … They don't think of retail as a lifelong career."

Shay gave results of a study that examined the job priorities of young adults entering the workforce, which found the average young adult values aspects of community, innovation and prosperous career opportunities when considering a potential employer.

Retail is at the top when it comes to innovation, Shay said. It gives back to the community through charitable actions, and it offers lifelong careers in multiple fields.

"Retail doesn't just mean jobs," Shay emphasized. "It means careers."

Of the 42 million Americans the retail industry employs, he said there are 46,000 auditors and accountants, 25,000 computer programmers and even 2,600 animal trainers and handlers.

"People don't think about that … who thinks you can be an animal trainer in retail?" Shay said.

The NRF plans to get its message across through the campaign website,, social media, grass-roots programs and national advertising.

Shay encouraged retailers to help spread the word by telling their stories.

"We have wonderful stories to tell," he said. "But the best messengers are the retailers."

Xandria Leopold, a retail consumer sciences student at the University of Arizona, is excited about the campaign and all aspects of the industry. "It makes me proud of retail," she said.

Leopold currently works at Old Navy as a sales associate. She has started a line of diaper bags and hopes to have her own business, so being at the conference gives her a good view of the industry.

"It shows the whole spectrum of retail - of what people don't see," Leopold said. "It makes me feel like I'm doing this for a reason. A lot of people get promoted at work and quit school. Being here makes me see I'm going to school for a reason."

Arialle Robinson is also a retail consumer sciences student, and a sales adviser at H&M. She said it's helpful to see the corporate side of retail.

"A lot of us are just sales advisers, so we don't always get to see CEOs and the corporate side of things," she said.


The Global Retailing Conference, in its 17th year, is put together by the University of Arizona's Terry J. Lundgren Center for Retailing and features 19 presenters over two days. The theme of this year's conference is Accelerate Your Brand - Get Ahead of Your Shopper.

Among today's speakers at the conference at Loews Ventana Canyon will be Tony Spring, president and COO of Bloomingdale's; Wanda Young, vice president of digital marketing for Walmart; Jack Tretton, CEO of Sony PlayStation; and fashion designer Tory Burch, CEO of Tory Burch LLC.

Contact reporter Angela Pittenger at or 573-4137.