In the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic, a lot remains uncertain, including the future of retail and the career paths for students in fashion. American Eagle Outfitters (AEO), parent company to American Eagle and Aerie, is working to help demystify some of the uncertainty and provide necessary tools for navigating the new retail industry. The company teamed with the National Retail Federation (NRF), along with Gap Inc., Levi Strauss & Co. (LS&Co.), URBN, Meijer and Designer Brands to provide a virtual learning program for retail interns who were left without internships as a result of the coronavirus.
AEO launched Retail Industry Summer Experience (RISE), an eight-week program that brings together 268 college sophomores, juniors and seniors as well as recent graduates and graduate students in the U.S. for a series of educational virtual sessions. Launched in June, the program gives younger generations the opportunity to learn directly from retail giants on new and existing challenges surrounding the industry.
“Despite the unforeseen challenges this year has brought, we have always been firm in our belief in the power and optimism of today’s youth,” said Stacy Siegal, AEO Inc. executive vice president, general counsel. “We are proud to spearhead the Retail Industry Summer Experience, in partnership with the NRF Foundation and in collaboration with other respected companies in our industry, and to bring this program to life. We are excited to be working together to facilitate a truly unique learning experience for this next generation of leaders.”
The program will provide professional development opportunities and cover areas such as sustainability, women in technology, and diversity and inclusion—topics that have especially gained significance in recent months. Speakers include Chad Kessler, American Eagle’s global brand president; Jennifer Foyle, Aerie’s global brand president; Chip Bergh, LS&Co. president and CEO, and more.
Sessions will be recorded and made available to students to learn at their own convenience.
The program mirrors an industry-wide shift to virtual education, as in-person events have had to pivot to digital methods. Trade shows like Kingpins and accelerator programs such as those organized by Fashion For Good and H&M Foundation have gone virtual to accommodate government restrictions in 2020.