Even though your campus store is running in the black—thanks to a great staff and well-oiled operating procedures—a closer look might reveal telltale clues that changes are in order. Here are four indicators that can provide a reality check for your store.
Unit sales of course materials have declined in relation to enrollment.
Unless faculty are adopting fewer materials, this usually means more students are buying elsewhere. Make sure your college bookstore offers all available options—including digital, rental, and low-cost print versions of open resources—in addition to sourcing as many used copies as possible. Explore inclusive-access programs as another option.
With today’s online transparency, it’s imperative your pricing is competitive and affordable. Use price-comparison software to monitor market prices and be prepared to be flexible on pricing based on the market; avoid applying a flat margin to all course materials. Place a comparison tool on the store’s website to show students how your store stacks up.
It’s been quite a while since the store’s [blank] has changed.
If you can fill in the blank with floor layout, display area, website, advertising, or promotional events, an update is well overdue.
Reset floor fixtures and displays every four to eight weeks to revitalize the look of the college store and cater to the campus’ seasonal needs. Refresh website content frequently and upgrade the technical functionality; remember that the site showcases the campus store to the world. Ask student employees to brainstorm ideas to energize your marketing messages and store events.
Specialty items have been on the shelf or in storage for more than three months.
If seasonal products, specialized items, or new categories are going to sell, they’ll sell within the first few weeks on the floor. After that, try featuring the items in a new display or moving them to another part of the campus store with a prominent sign. If sales don’t perk up after a week or two, put the items on the sale table with an attractive markdown (at least 20% off) and keep reducing as needed until all are gone. Or, give the products away as part of an in-store promotion or student organization fundraiser.
Don’t hold onto merchandise indefinitely with the idea that it will sell eventually. It won’t, and you’re tying up inventory dollars and space in the meantime.
Net sales are flat or declining.
Your store should track this number by month, academic term, and year as it will often reveal the first signs of trouble. When sales don’t compare well to the preceding year, that’s your prompt to locate the reasons.
There could be any number of causes, possibly in combination. These might include lower enrollment, price erosion due to inflation, former big sellers now cooling off, construction work deterring foot traffic or parking, new competition in town, reduced store hours, poor weather, faculty shifting to cheaper course materials, or new marketing promotions that didn’t deliver, among others.
Segmenting sales reports by product category can help pinpoint such problems as merchandise selection, pricing, theft, and even “dead” spots in the store that don’t seem to attract customers.
If you’ve spotted any of these four signs in your college or university store, indiCo has a number of solutions to help you with a makeover, from inventory planning to course materials management to retail technology resources. Contact us for more information.