The changes involving branding and
merchandising have almost made the
term campus bookstore obsolete, notes
Jim Schubert, president of Showbest
Fixture Corp., based in Henrico, Va.
“It should be college retail store,” he
says. “If you take out the books, it’s a big
retail environment. There’s everything
from bikinis to golf balls.” Showbest, for
instance, has supplied these stores with
contemporary fixtures ranging from
copying services to Clinique counters.
Barnes & Noble College customizes the
product mix for each school. This approach
has been particularly successful with
general merchandise. For stores that have
transitioned to Barnes & Noble College over
the past three years, general merchandise
sales have increased by 28% in the first year
and 12% each year after, Malat says.
Determining the right product mix
can be an art. But Little turned to science
when it took on a campus bookstore for
Davidson College in Davidson, N.C. The
store moved from a one-level space in the
student center to a reduced-footprint,
two-story former bank space on the
revived Main Street. To appeal to both
students and locals, the project team
surveyed 2,000 town and gown participants. As a result, convenience items
were edited and licensed spiritwear was
amplified to avoid competing with neighboring businesses, Rehfuss says.
WITH SCHOOL SPIRIT
If the merchandise mix is getting complex, the effective merchandising strategies are fairly simplistic. To stay connected
with digital natives, individual stores
must update their websites constantly,
Lopez believes. Sports can be leveraged to
boost profits. For instance, game promo-tions can be paired with advertisements
for clothing and textbooks at the beginning of each semester, he says.
For Barnes & Noble College, outreach
efforts range from social media to partnering with a tutoring service, Malat
says. The stores have become vibrant
social hubs (see sidebar).
Retailers and CPGs also can add popup
stores near sporting events, graduations,
and other activities to bring attention to
the brand, Lopez suggests.
Just as the product mix should be
customized, so too should merchandising displays. “Know the school and its
strengths,” says Schubert of Showbest.
“Don’t be too generic. Understand the
culture and how it relates to the product.”
Little’s Rehfuss says merchandising
displays should tell stories. Touring prospective students and their families want
to take home a piece of their experience.
In addition to basic T-shirts and sweat-
shirts, displays can interest them in gifts
for the family. “For a home game tailgate,
for example, you can create an entire
spirit story with branding using grill
aprons, barware, and utensils.”
Merchandising strategies can be similar
to those of a mall, notes Bev Moroz, pres-
ident of Factory Design Worx, a design
firm in Whitevale, Ontario, Canada.
As students place increasing emphasis on
social and environmental issues, schools
have looked to green their buildings as
well, and savvy retailers locating nearby
are following suit.
After research revealed that students
of the Ontario College of Art and Design
are eco-minded, Moroz specified FSC-certified wood for fixtures for a new cam-pus store there. Previously tucked
away, the downtown campus store moved
to a streetfront space. For the long, narrow footprint, Moroz envisioned a two-sided fixture of clear-coated raw wood
covering a portion of the window wall.