Santa Clara University


Retail Workbench Research and Education Center

Solving significant problems and expanding basic knowledge of retailing is the mission of the institutes research arm, the Retail Workbench Research and Education Center.

The Retail Workbench offers a program of research and education to help managers use the latest information system technologies to deal with the rapidly changing retail environment. The center is a focal point for managers, faculty, students, and technology firms to study the application of advanced analytical techniques, information technology, and knowledge-based systems of retail decision making. The focus is not on simply doing things faster, but on finding ways to do them better by improving the decision-making process.

Faculty members and retail firms work side by side to design and carry out research projects. As in so may areas at the institute, the benefits are mutual: Retail firms tap the expertise of University professionals experienced in both empirical ad theoretical research; faculty gain the close contact with retailers that keeps them in touch with the latest retailing techniques and practices.

More than a dozen corporate sponsors support the work of the Retail Workbench and jointly decide which projects to tackle.

In the 1990s, the explosion in the quantity of scanner data, the dramatic improvements in the cost and performance of computer technology, and the development of sophisticated graphic data-analysis tools have created unprecedented opportunities for retailers to understand their customers better and to manage merchandise more effectively. At the same time, increased competition and changes in the demographics have accelerated the need for responsive merchandise management. To help address these challenges and opportunities, a new research center was created at Santa Clara University in 1991.

The Retail Workbench Research and Education Center is the research arm of the Santa Clara University's globally recognized Retail Management Institute. The Retail Workbench has a straightforward yet profound mission:

To improve decision making in the general merchandise segment of the industry by applying science to the art of retailing.

The Retail Workbench offers a program of research and education to assist managers in using the latest information-system technologies to deal with the rapidly changing retail environment. The Retail Workbench is a university-based research environment that combines.

  • The development of new methods for data analysis, sales forecasting, and merchandise management specifically designed for the retailing industry
  • State-of-the-art desktop computing platforms and graphics software tools appropriate for retail managers.
  • Knowledge-based systems that allow managers and professionals to encode and summarize knowledge so that it can be retained in and diffused throughout an organization.
  • The objective is not to find ways to do things faster, but rather to find ways to help managers make better decisions by doing things differently.

More than a dozen corporate sponsors support the Retail Workbench and jointly decide which project to tackle. Sponsors benefit by taking part in

  • Assessment of the potential of new technologies for managerial decision making
  • Development of new techniques for proactive analysis of large corporate databases
  • Briefings and support of retail professionals in the design and/or use of knowledge tools and systems
  • Recruitment of students with expertise in applying emerging information technologies to retailing

Each project concludes with a proof-of-concept report and a prototype system. The results of each study are shared with corporate sponsors in periodic seminars at Santa Clara University. Additionally, corporate sponsors may at any time send representatives to Santa Clara for updates on individual projects and general briefings on Retail Workbench activities.

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