Financial Acumen Course for Creative Types?

Apr 06, 2017

Hi Heroes!

My team has been tasked with creating a "Retail Math" -- a basic financial acumen course that discusses costs, margins, and other retail revenue life cycle info for our buyers and merchandisers (very creative types).

I was wondering if anyone had tackled a project like this before and had any advice about how to approach it. My initial thought was to go scenario-based in a show-it/try-it/do-it way but I'm open to whatever.

Any advice would be appreciated! Thanks,


3 Replies
Bob S

Hi Jeremy,

So setting aside the knee-jerk reaction to having folks in the Buyer role who don't understand how to calculate margins/discounts/etc (yikes!), I might suggest that perhaps this is a case where you deliver the training "straight up". 

Those sorts of Retail-math skills are simply essential to the roles and hopefully you won't have to sell the need for the training . Maybe take a page from how it's taught in schools  -  provide the technique and then have them practice it relentlessly.  You could even augment that with a simple  job aid that's a list of "if you want to figure out X, do Y" list of formulas/steps. Let them use the job aid during the course even, but practice practice practice is going to be key. Those folks tend to be very busy, so if it were me I might not  use the limited time available taking them through fleshed out scenarios.

All that being said, If you are getting resistance for this training you could also lead off with a bit of a quiz to cement the need for these skills in their role. Word problems tied to THEIR roles as a pre-test..... This might be just humbling enough to sting  a bit and get their attention for what follows in the rest of the course...

  • Julia the buyer realizes she is overbought on widgets and there are only 4 weeks left in widget season. She decides to discount the product on the floor in the following way.... .... .... What is the net margin per item for this promotion and the "cost" of the promotion compared to full price?  If instead she decides not to discount the product, assuming the aging cost is 20% cumulative per quarter, how much will it cost to sell through at the current run rate?

In short, while I'm a big fan of scenario-based learning for many/most situations, in this case you are talking about something that is basically remedial training for those particular roles. If my car mechanic didn't know what a screwdriver was or which direction to turn it..... I'm not sure building scenarios is the route I would go.  Hope that distinction makes sense. 

Not the answer you probably expected/wanted (sorry), so hopefully one of the heroes here can provide an alternative view as well that might prove helpful.  Important project, good luck!

Jeremy Negrey

Hi Bob-

Thanks for the response - sorry for the delay in getting back to you!

I agree, I'm a bit confused how we got to this point where we have people in roles that don't seem to have the basic skills they need.

We're diving in a bit to get a better handle on the problem -- is it new employees, is it due to a change in systems or accounting methods, etc. We also tend to hire entry-level people into these roles from only a handful of schools, and we've reached out to them to get a better understanding of how they teach this content.

That being said, I've got to do something about the people already in these roles who are struggling. I like the straight-forward approach here as well; I'm thinking of starting with a demo, then a guided practice and finally an assessment where they'll have to complete some exercises on their own.



Bob S

Hi Jeremy,

Well at least your team is out in front of the challenge instead of ignoring the issue. Kudos.

And yes, assessing them with exercises they must complete on their own is a great call here. You may even want to set the state with them that there will be a follow up exercise/assessment they must complete X days after the course to help cement the learning.... the topic is that central to their success in the role. Make sense?



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