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an independent take on campus stores

Meet the Supply-Chain Disruptor: indiCo Direct

[fa icon="calendar"] Nov 1, 2017 10:27:04 AM

Robert A. Walton

Written by Robert A. Walton

CEO, National Association of College Stores

This is a monumental day for independent campus stores.

Today we launch indiCo Direct, a new general-merchandise service that will empower independent campus stores of all sizes to effectively compete with retail chains and corporate leased stores—even e-commerce vendors. Through indiCo Direct, independent stores will be able to provide a wider assortment of products at competitive prices for the convenience of their students, while keeping more revenue on campus.

indiCo Direct is dedicated to offering quality general merchandise at lower wholesale pricing than historic trends, but equally important, with new and more flexible terms focused on soothing the pain points of GM buyers in stores under $5 million in annual revenue.

The real significance of this initiative is that it enables stores to proactively reduce their traditional dependence on textbook sales, which is no longer sustainable due to the increasing number of changes taking place in the textbook market. Stronger margins on general merchandise will allow stores to absorb and buffer against revenue losses from course materials and lower the cost of course materials for students. At the same time they’ll be able to offer competitively priced general merchandise that will not only increase store margins, but also the number of turns of inventory key to financial viability.

 This will change the conversation about campus stores that have for so long been maligned for charging high prices over which they had little control. This will reposition independent campus stores as truly supporting student success.

How it works:

 indiCo is joining other leading global companies and reinventing the supply chain to remove the inequities that independent college and university stores face when buying general merchandise. These include high prices and decorating fees, setup fees, large order minimums, long lead times, and more.

 By going directly to manufacturers, indiCo Direct can guarantee competitive pricing for independent campus stores regardless of order size. Stores can buy whatever amounts they need, even a single piece. We won’t force minimums on you.

Unlike many buying groups and consortia, indiCo Direct won’t require campus stores to commit up front to annual purchases, or push the store into buying volumes that are a stretch and add risk. There’s no enrollment fee—no store should have to pay a fee to join a consortial buying group of peer institutions; all the store has to do is register with us. It’s about as easy and low-risk as possible.

And it gets better.

Orders will ship within three business days, so stores can quickly restock or respond to an immediate need on campus. Individual orders of at least $50 will ship for free within the U.S.

We’re phasing in several product categories every month. Right now, to give campus stores an opportunity to sample indiCo Direct’s service and test-drive the online ordering system, we’re offering a selection of holiday-themed knit hats and nonwoven bags for prompt shipping.

All future categories and timeframes are subject to change, but in December, indiCo Direct expects to be taking orders for a variety of drinkware, keychains, backpacks, sticky notes, bubble mailers, and various travel accessories, all ready to ship after Jan. 1. Come January, we anticipate adding headwear, binders, sketchbooks, drawing pads, eco-friendly stationery, desk organizers, and writing instruments. The list will grow each month; watch our website for updates on new products.

In addition, we set up our own decorating facility so that we can customize your store’s orders with embroidery, laser-engraving, screen printing, direct-to-garment printing, sublimation printing, UV printing, embossing, or other options and get them to you quickly. There are no artwork or setup fees.

indiCo is open to working with any vendor company willing to commit to and match our competitive pricing and favorable terms for independent campus stores. Suppliers interested in becoming part of indiCo Direct can apply here.

All of indiCo Direct’s suppliers are interviewed, inspected, and fully vetted to ensure they meet or exceed internationally recognized social, ethical, and environmental standards. It’s important to us and we know that it’s important to students and higher education institutions as well. At some point in the future, we’ll have pictures and videos on our website so people can view the working conditions of our suppliers for themselves.

We also understand institutions want to help their students transition from campus to the work world. To that end, indiCo is also launching Suitable Attire, a service that will allow independent campus stores to rent and sell classic black business suits to students for job and internship interviews or other occasions. This service is not focused on making money for indiCo or the store, but is designed to strengthen the store’s partnerships with student deans and career services to expand services focused on student success.

 We offer two designer business suit styles for women (pants or skirt) and one for men at prices students can afford. Suits will ship to participating stores starting in January.

 indiCo can also make Suitable Attire available through your campus career office or other administrative departments that work with students.

 All indiCo Direct services and programs are only available to qualified independent and institutionally affiliated stores.

 We’re excited to roll out indiCo Direct and Suitable Attire today. Check us out! Let us know if you’d like to come on board. And this is just the beginning; we’re working on other services to support independent campus stores to be announced at CAMEX in Dallas next March. Stay tuned.

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