City College students compete in CATWALK Retail Fashion Business Simulation

Case Study by Ken Thompson

Background to the customer:

To road-test our retail fashion simulation we headed to Glasgow City College, one of Scotland’s largest colleges based in the heart of Glasgow, to run the CATWALK Retail simulation with a group of business students who are currently studying for careers within the retail fashion industry.  

Customer needs

The requirement was for a fashion specific retail simulation which would give a valuable and practical insight into the key decisions and dilemmas which buyers and merchandisers would encounter within the retail fashion sector.  There was a necessity for a team-based simulation, allowing the students to experience working in a team to enable them to discover what type of team player they are and how well they work together as a team under pressure.


The Solution

The Catwalk Retail Fashion Simulation allows teams to run a major designer fashion brand in a national market over 4 seasons. For a team to succeed they need to be running a profitable, fashionable and socially responsible business.  The simulation is conducted using a highly structured approach which blends gamification and informal/social learning. In this instance we played it with 4 competing teams. The key aspects of the simulations include:

  • The importance of product design and product outfit families to optimise customer basket size
  • Positioning your different brands in the market in terms of pricing, image and production costs
  • Managing offshore manufacturing in a manner consistent with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR)
  • Anticipating and responding well to changes in both supply-side and sales-side trends including competitor activity.

 Participant feedback:

Below are some direct quotes from the students about what they learned from the simulation:

  • I liked the way it brought together everything we had learned throughout retail management; it really brought it all to life!
  • Demand is key and being on trend with your designs by using the Lookbook instead of going by personal preference only, as what you think will sell might not be what your customers want.
  • Found the surprises through market updates and supplier updates really interesting and added extra pressure.
  • A good strategy from the beginning is important and you need to stick to it!
  • Would like to see it as part of our course, maybe some sort of certificate from the college could be given to make it more credible

A comprehensive analysis of all participant feedback is also available here  

Overall Conclusions and Value

We asked Maureen Houston, Retail Course Leader at Glasgow City College who introduced and monitored the game for her observations: “It makes what I have been teaching in class really come to life. The simulation is also really useful for students as it teaches them to appreciate suppliers’ roles and the importance of good suppliers. I think the competition aspect really engages the students, I liked the added touch of a prize for the winner.”

Maureen went on to say: “I could definitely see the simulation being used over the course of a whole module, in which students could study a season one week and debrief the next week.”

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More about Ken Thompson

Ken Thompson

Ken is a practitioner, author and speaker on Leadership, Collaborative Working, High Performing Teams, Change Management, Project Management and Business Acumen. His work has featured in major publications including The Guardian , Wired Magazine, The Huffington Post and The Henry Ford Magazine. Ken has also spoken at many international events including TEDx, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement (IHI), Learn Tech (London) and NASA.

Ken is Founder of Business Simulations Ltd.

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