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Retail Ready with Banana Republic

October 12, 2011

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“The most common request that YAI’s Employment Training team receives is for retail-related job development,” said Brooke Drexler, Assistant Manager of YAI’s Corporate Volunteer Program.

To meet this need – and to kick off a jam-packed October full of events that celebrate National Disability Employment Awareness Month – 13 staff members from Banana Republic’s Herald Square location recently teamed up with YAI to run a “Retail-Based Training” event for individuals in YAI’s Employment Training program. More than 25 job-ready participants from Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens and the Bronx attended to gain new skills.  

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“Today, we are teaching a few different things,” said Heather Schwartz, Human Resources Manager for Banana Republic. “Our team will be discussing the ‘customer experience’ – the importance of greeting, communicating and assisting customers – as well as loss prevention, maintaining brand standards of folding shirts and pants, and merchandising.”

Banana Republic staff taught YAI participants how to properly fold shirts and pants, how to follow a “concept book” and dress a mannequin as well as offered techniques and tips for positive interactions with customers.  

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“Before today, I didn’t know how to dress a mannequin. Now I understand how to do that, plus I learned a new way to fold shirts so that they look even neater,” shared Natasha, who attends YAI’s Manhattan Employment Training program. “I think that working in Banana Republic or another retail store would be great for me and I hope to one day be a Sales Associate,” she continued. “I’d love to help customers find the correct size and pick out what they’re going to wear. Today helped me get ready for that.”

Banana Republic, which joins GAP and Old Navy as part of the GAP, Inc. family, has been a long-time supporter of YAI since the 1980s. In addition to conducting mock interviews to help teach job-readiness skills to individuals with disabilities, GAP Inc. has employed more than 30 YAI Employment Graduates throughout their stores.     

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“GAP Inc. has been a phenomenal partner in the past,” said Brooke. “And today’s Retail-Based Training is another excellent opportunity for our program participants because they are improving their skills and gaining a better understanding of what it takes to work in a retail environment. After today, we can then evaluate who is still interested in a retail position and move forward to potential job interviews.”

Of course, the benefits of the event are not limited to YAI’s program participants. Staff from Banana Republic also benefit tremendously from the partnership.

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“I’ve seen first-hand the difficulties that someone with a disability can face - the difficulties of going through school, maintaining a job, feeling like you fit in when you may not be performing as well as those around you,” shared Heather. “But an organization like YAI really recognizes that there is no definition for ‘normal’ and says that everyone deserves the chance to excel, grow and find the niche that is right for me. That is something that the staff at Banana Republic are really starting to see.”

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Heather continued: “Our team is so excited to be here and YAI has very quickly made a huge impact on all of us. Getting to know Employment Program participants is something that we’d like to continue to do so that we can expand Banana Republic’s relationship with YAI and hopefully identify new employment opportunities.”

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And a date for expanding the relationship is already set. To further recognize National Disability Employment Awareness Month, on October 27, GAP Inc. will be hosting GAP Shadowing Day. YAI participants will have the opportunity to shadow employees from GAP, Banana Republic and Old Navy right in the stores to gain first-hand experience at what a day at work in a retail environment would be entail. Be sure to check back in for an update and photos from that event!

To learn more about hiring reliable, well-trained employees, please visit yai.org/employment. You can also watch videos of Employment Graduates on the job. For more information, contact Elizabeth Repoli, Senior Management of Corporate Relations, at elizabeth.repoli@yai.org or 212-273-6134.