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VF Partners With NC State University on Graduate Student Practicum to Explore Inventory Optimization

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VF Partners With NC State University on Graduate Student Practicum to Explore Inventory Optimization

July 8, 2016

Helping ensure The North Face has the right products in the right location at the right time is a little easier, thanks to an almost year-long partnership between VF Corporation, North Carolina State University (NCSU) and The North Face. As a part of an inventory optimization project, five graduate students studying data science audited The North Face’s approach to inventory for the brand’s brick-and-mortar stores and its e-commerce platform.

NC State

More than 60 organizations applied to be a part of NCSU’s practicum program that pairs teams of graduate students from its Institute of Advanced Analytics with companies and organizations looking to solve real business cases. VF was one of 23 companies NCSU selected for the program that also featured a range of non-governmental organizations, private businesses and public institutions. The students teamed up with VF and The North Face between August 2015 and April 2016.

“The program is powerful on two fronts: first, it allows students to earn real-life experience in the data science field, and second, it helps us make practical changes to how we approach logistics,” said Ian Conway, Senior Director of Retail & Customer Analytics at VF. “Inventory management requires constant refinement based on real-time consumer trends, and the recommendations that emerged from this partnership will help guide us to future successes.” 

The key objectives of the project were to understand The North Face’s retail operations across regions and channels; identify opportunities to better meet customer demand; and evaluate the impact of inventory activity on store associates. The group’s recommendations are currently being refined as they are implemented into the brand’s daily operations.

 “The experience of working with VF and The North Face in an 8-month practicum was very educational. It offered hands-on experience where we could utilize the skills we learned throughout our graduate program while also gaining insight about the issues businesses face when integrating analytics into business practices,” said Keona Drakeford, NCSU graduate student and leader for the VF practicum team. “Overall, this experience helped better prepare us for our careers as analytical professionals.”

VF’s growing Retail and Analytics function is part of the company’s Direct-to-Consumer (DTC) platform. With more than 1,500 retail stores across 13 brands and dozens of e-commerce sites globally, VF’s DTC business accounts for almost 30% of VF’s total revenue.

“Successful organizations are the ones that regularly step back and assess their approach to operations, and that is what we did here,” Conway said. “This partnership also provided these five graduate students with an incredible window into real-world business complexities in a way that a classroom cannot.” 

For more information about NCSU’s Institute of Advanced Analytics, visit analytics.ncsu.edu. More information about career opportunities with VF, please visit vfc.com/careers.