Independent campus stores face many hurdles to get basic supplies, spirit items, and other general merchandise on the shelf at competitive prices. Right now the supply-chain deck is stacked against the independent store, particularly small and medium stores that have less bargaining power because of the smaller size of their orders.
Buyers are also faced with hard choices. They are forced to stock less variety than they might like due to minimum order requirements in some categories, particularly decorated items. Suppliers require long lead times; making reorders of the most popular items impractical for many independent stores, which results in lost revenue opportunities.
That’s wrong, and puts independent stores at a disadvantage. Campus stores shouldn’t have to commit to buying products months in advance and ordering more than they need—with less variety—to get even a small price break. The independent store shouldn’t have to shoulder the bulk of the inventory risk and be unable to respond quickly to market trends, making it harder to compete with large retail chains and e-commerce sellers.
This needs to change.
Here are just a few of the barriers confronting today’s independent stores:
Due to their smaller order size, independent campus stores are at a disadvantage when buying general merchandise from traditional wholesalers, starting with higher prices and decorating fees that restrain store margins. To achieve competitive pricing, campus stores are forced to accept long lead times and more inventory, which means more risk.
And the current prices of many wholesalers are just too high. Independent stores need the competitive value of a large buying group to gain lower pricing and the ability to generate higher margins on more competitively priced products.
Many suppliers set mandatory minimums for orders and won’t accept anything smaller. Campus stores have to place larger orders than they ideally want that take a long time to sell off, tying up cash and stockroom storage space and preventing the store from offering a broader variety of merchandise. Why can’t a store just order the quantity needed for its customers? Stores should be free to try out a new product on a small scale rather than gamble on an expensive buy, and then easily and quickly replenish items that move.
Campus stores also encounter other hurdles with vendors over product customization, returns, realistic payment terms, and more.
Given these key barriers, independent campus stores are at a disadvantage as they struggle to provide quality goods at fair prices with top-notch service, and still recoup their costs and contribute funding back to the institution. College students—and their schools—shouldn’t be short-changed. And campus stores shouldn’t be labeled as overpriced due to factors beyond their control.
Campus stores need and deserve partners who can help, not hinder, them. It’s time to disrupt the current system by introducing an alternative that gives independent stores the same opportunities as the big guys.
indiCo is doing just that. On Nov. 1, we will introduce a new way for independent campus stores, regardless of size, to stock a wide variety of general merchandise at lower and more competitive prices than traditional wholesale. And, we’re removing the current hurdles:
No high markups.
No membership fees or hidden fees.
No excessive inventory.
Custom decorating on demand.
By working together, independent stores can benefit from the buying power of collaboration, gain the same scale and privileges that large-scale corporate buyers enjoy, and compete on an even playing field.
Watch for more details over the next few weeks.
indiCo will be participating in many state and regional college store association meetings this fall, as well as the NACAS C3X Expo in November. Stop by to visit with us and learn more.