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New McGill school of retail to tackle challenges in grocery

Bensadoun School of Retail Management will cover such areas as sustainable consumption

Montreal’s McGill University has officially opened a school of retail management with a goal to tackle the many transformative challenges facing retailers, including some of those unique to grocery.

Named after Canadian shoe retail icon Aldo Bensadoun whose Bensadoun Family Foundation gifted $25 million to the school last year, the Bensadoun School of Retail Management will cover all aspects of retail with a particular focus on sustainable consumption and healthy societies, drawing on expertise from all faculties across the university.

“The retail industry is affected by grand challenges such as nutrition and food or sustainability, which cannot be tackled through siloed thinking,” said Saibal Ray, academic director, Bensadoun School of Retail Management and James McGill professor in supply chain management.

“The Bensadoun School of Retail Management can bring together expertise from various faculties to ensure the right people are around the table to fix these issues.”

Food is one of the main research areas at the school, with research underway related to the nutritional aspects of food, product development (within the faculty of agriculture), pricing and delivery issues.

Some of the high level, seemingly unrelated research work at the university could have a real impact on the grocery sector.

“For example, AI can be useful in issues like personalization and product assortment optimization while neuroscience can help understand the decision-making process from the consumer perspective,” said Ray.

“One of the things we want to work on is how we can nudge consumers towards healthier behaviours, in a way that is sustainable on the long term from the consumer side as well as financially sustainable on the retailer side,” he said.

Aside from Bensadoun, the school has received a number of corporate contributions from the likes of Saputo, Walmart and Couche-Tard. Nespresso has also signed on as what the school calls a post-launch “collaborator.”

“We are living through a period of tremendous change in retail and to succeed, future industry leaders will need to fundamentally understand consumers’ changing behaviours and expectations,” said Aldo Bensadoun, in a release. “It is my hope that by working with industry partners and leveraging McGill’s breadth and depth of research in fields such as accounting and finance, as well as others like psychology, artificial intelligence, neuroscience and sustainability, we will succeed in reinventing the future of retail management.”

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