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People shop inside at the Hudson’s Bay Co. flagship department store in Toronto.MARK BLINCH/Reuters

Canada's retail sector is growing rapidly and in new ways, prodded especially these days by the arrival of U.S. giants such as Nordstrom and Target.

But while there are MBA programs offering retail management specializations in the United States at Syracuse University in upstate New York and the University of South Carolina, for example, few exist in Canada.

That's why the Schulich School of Business at York University in Toronto is launching its first global retail management specialization within its MBA program, starting with the winter term.

The program will cover fast-moving consumer goods and retail productivity and adaptability.

The goal, marketing professor Robert Kozinets says, is to train the country's next generation of retail executives to take Canadian stores to the next level.

"We initiated the global retail management specialization at Schulich because there was intense interest among our advisory board members for course offerings that would help prepare students for the fast-moving and important retail sector," Dr. Kozinets elaborates.

The retail sector contributed $74.2-billion to Canada's gross domestic product in 2009, according to the latest statistics compiled by Industry Canada.

The sector plays a key role in bridging production and consumption, and has significant direct and indirect effects on the Canadian economy, representing 6.2 per cent of Canada's GDP. Furthermore, the rate of Canada's retail sector GDP growth was 34 per cent faster than the U.S. counterpart and 96 per cent greater than the Canadian economy between 2004 and 2008.

Observes Dr. Kozinets, "The Canadian economy has been and continues to be impacted heavily by competition and evolution in the the retail sector. Business schools need to go where the action is."

Three mandatory courses will be focused on managing a retail practice (including supply chain management), marketing strategy and analytics (including how to price).

Optional courses will cover topics such as global negotiations, design and innovation, and brand management.

"We want to upgrade our business education with the latest technology tools so we developed a short specialization within the MBA that we think can give students interested in retail … a real edge over their peers taking undifferentiated or only loosely specialized MBA degrees."