October 10, 1996
Ways to Increase College Bookstore Sales
I think that in order to increase sales to students and faculty,
the College Bookstore must address and improve the areas of merchandise selection, staffing, and merchandise organization. My recommendations are based on the conclusion that these factors majorly contribute to the potential patrons decision to shop elsewhere. The main competition is Walton's and the Campus Drug Store, of which combined hold 72% of the students and faculty as patrons.
In response to your search for viable ways to increase sales to students and faculty, I interviewed employees, administered surveys to college students and faculty, and conducted an independent observation to determine the college bookstore's weaknesses and strong points. From the data, I compared the bookstore to the competition and to the ideal bookstore vision that was collectively described by the students and faculty.
My study shows that the College Bookstore has a definite issue in merchandise selection. Of those sureveyed, the individuals that chose the competition did so because they claimed that they had a better selection and that by going there they can get everything that they need in one stop.
My independent observation shows that there are a number of items carried by the competition that the bookstore does not carry. These are insignia clothing, gift items, greeting cards, magaines, and candy and snacks. Also, although the bookstore does carry a selection of paperback books, the selection is small and limited. Of those carried, categories of science fiction, best-sellers, and other non-fiction are less than that of the competition. Of those surveyed, the lowest scoring service issue is that of the selection of merchanidise.
Karen Sweeney, a manager for three of her eight years of employment at the bookstore, feels insignia clothing and merchandise is a lucrative market that should be tapped into. According to the information obtained in my independent observation and the surveys, sweatshirts, T-shirts, and shorts with campus logos are desired products and are not carried by the bookstore. In fact, a patron looking for these items must go to the competition. Of those items already offered with the campus logo, it is reported that these are good sellers and are often impulse purchases.
One consistent complaint is that the employees lack friendly customer service and knowledge of bookstore items and services.
John Laskey, stock clerk of 18 months, attributes this to short handed staffing and lack of employee training. As most personnel are students themselves, the periods of rush patron traffic at the beginning and end of each term are difficult times to staff. Students are busy with papers and exams and don't want to work then. Also, many of those who work are not knowledgable of the overall stocking plan and are left unable to assist in restocking.
Cheryl Englehart, full time cash register clerk of four years, states that checkout lines are difficult, but there are times when cash register clerks don't have anything to do. She also feels that the computer cash registers are complicated.
Space is tight in the college bookstore. It is very crowded. Walton's has a much airer feel, but is similar in the interior makeup. Aisles are just as close, but are higher, thus allowing for more inventory. The bookstore offers lockers for patrons to put there materials in while they are shopping. Similar lockers are used by Walton's, but not by the Campus Drug Store.
Prices are pretty even with that of the competition. Although there is always a cry for lower prices, those surveyed rated the bookstore's prices as slightly above average.
Based on this information, I feel that an effort must be made to increase the selection of items offered to the patrons, better organize the store to present an easier flowing shopping experience, and properly train the staff to always place the customer's needs to the forefront of the situation.
Obtain a bigger, better selection of merchandise, especially insignia clothing and materials. This appears to be the main concern of potential patrons. Other selection increases should include acquiring a wider selection of paperback books, gift items, greeting cards, magazines, candy and snacks.
Eliminate the lockers and increase the number of shelves. The organization of merchandise is another area that needs work. This will improve the shopping experience and make it easier for part-time employees to know where everything is at, a better plan must be addressed. This is also a factor in the acquiring of new products. The amount of space that you provide with this change will give the patron a wider selection to chose from.
Place customer service and satisfaction at the forefront. Customer service has always been the key to return patronage and is definitely worthy of addressing in this case. It is paramount that employees treat the customer in the friendliness manner possible and always be willing to assist them.
Train the employees to be knowledgeable about the store's products and services and capable to be working on productive ventures throughout their workday. Full time or part time, everyone should be aware of the overall stocking plan, know where everything is located, and be able to interchange positions in the event of rush periods. In the example of the cash register clerks, they should never have a period in which they have nothing to do.
I would be happy to discuss the results of this research with you in more detail and can provide statistical backing for my figures and the overall survey conslusions.