September 21, 2014  

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Southern Miss Professor’s Merchandising Book Gets Fifth Printing

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Southern Miss Senior Associate Provost Dr. Cynthia Easterling, right, looks over the fifth edition of her book "Merchandising Mathematics for Retailing" with Interim President Dr. Aubrey Lucas. (Photo by Danny Rawls)

Dr. Cynthia Easterling, University of Southern Mississippi Senior Associate Provost, has watched a fledgling resource idea for marketing students become a genuine “must-have” across a wider scale with the fifth-edition printing of “Merchandising Mathematics for Retailing.”

 Printed by Pearson Publishing, the book serves as a guide in a merchandising and mathematics course taken by students majoring in retail management or merchandising. Such courses are also appropriate for students majoring in apparel design or manufacturing, interior design and marketing.

“The textbook was developed to familiarize students with principles and terminology important to understanding profitable merchandising,” said Easterling. “This knowledge is important in preparing students for entry-level positions in retailing and for eventual careers as analysts, allocators, buyers, merchandise managers and upper-level executives. It is also of value to students seeking careers in the apparel and home furnishing industries and in interior design.”

The first edition was printed in 1984 with Easterling serving as principal author. North Texas Professor Ellen Flottman, who was also a buyer for Macy’s at the time, and Texas Women’s University Professor Marian Jernigan co-authored the initial book. Flottman and Jernigan have since died. Texas State University Professor Beth Wuest assisted Easterling on the fifth edition.

Today, the publication is used as the primary textbook in merchandising and retailing programs in approximately 100 colleges and universities worldwide. The book is also used by retailers in merchandising and retail training programs. Editions have been printed in Russian and Japanese.

“I have used this textbook since 2003 and in comparison to other merchandising math textbooks I find this one has topics divided in a logical manner and teaches information in an easy-to-understand manner,” said Dr. Tammy Robinson, associate professor in the Department of Interior Design and Fashion at Radford University. “I consider it to be very ‘student-friendly.’ ”

Robinson notes that many former students have written to say that the book has been a valuable tool and consistent resource in their real-world jobs.

Baylor University Professor Rochelle R. Brunson has coordinated interns for more than 25 years at various colleges and universities and notes that the topic of merchandising math is one that continuously surfaces after the students have completed their internship experience. 

“Without fail, students consistently comment that the merchandising math concepts and skills learned from their merchandising and buying classes were the most valuable when it came to their internships and careers,” said Brunson. “Whether a student decides to specifically go into buying or not, the knowledge is useful no matter what aspect of the industry in which they choose to work.”

Interestingly, the latest edition of “Merchandising Mathematics for Retailing” coincides with the return of Dr. Aubrey K. Lucas to Southern Miss as interim president. Lucas served as full-time president from 1975-1996 and posed for a photo with Easterling in 1984 to celebrate the book’s initial printing.

“To have the book reach a fifth printing is quite remarkable in itself, but to have Dr. Lucas on hand to see the latest edition makes the achievement even more special,” said Easterling. “Everyone associated with this university is fortunate to have such a respected, accomplished educator like Dr. Lucas lend his expertise and guidance during this time of transition.”

Lucas notes that the recognition Southern Miss receives from professors publishing books that are used in education globally is substantial. 

“The fact that this book has continued to have an impact with a fifth edition years later makes us even prouder of Dr. Easterling and her continued work in the fashion industry,” said Lucas. “This publishing task, coupled with her administrative duties in the Provost Office and teaching duties, demonstrates her strong commitment to the University she serves.”

Will there be a sixth edition of the book? Easterling certainly hopes so.

“It takes several years to write new editions,” said Easterling. “The publisher will ask about 10 professors and retailers to review the latest edition and make suggestions for improvements and changes. Our goal has always been to provide a comprehensive, useful textbook for students, retailers and merchandisers. Judging by the feedback, it would certainly seem that we’re on the right track.”