Archive for August, 2012
Inside Briar Cliff University’s bookstore are items that every student will need, such as textbooks, backpacks and notepads.
And then, there are some unexpected yet useful things, like energy drinks, extension cords, even laundry detergent.
But there are plenty of stuff you’d never dream of seeing inside a college bookstore.
“These tutus are some of our fastest selling items,” BCU bookstore manager Nancy Watson explained while showing off a ready supply of blue-and-yellow frills.
Um … aren’t tutus the things that ballerinas wear?
Well, yes, but these “Spirit” tutus are meant to be worn on one’s head or arms during sport events.
“The kids love ‘em because the tutus come in (BCU’s) school colors,” she said.
Another way to show school spirit is with a Briar Cliff Chargers “Number One” foam hand and jersey sleeve.
“This is actually pretty cool,” observed BCU senior Sherin Parambaloth as she tried on the blue foam hand for size.
As much fun as it is to cheer on your team, college is, of course, a place of study. Watson had plenty of things to get students into the Zen swing of things.
“A Buddha Board is based on the Zen concept of living in the moment,” she said, demonstrating on a newfangled erase message board. “You simply write on the surface with water. Once the water evaporates, your writing will magically disappear, leaving you with a clean slate and a clean state of mind.”
If that’s too existential for you, Watson also has boards to help your back after a long day in front of a computer.
“I bet this will be as popular with instructors as it is with students,” she said of the multicolor Backjoys.
The newest item in the Morningside College bookstore isn’t quite as ergonomically comfortable as its crosstown rival but it’s much more environmentally friendly.
“A Bend-A-Bottle is a flexible bottle that can be folded up in a backpack when not in use,” said Morningside College bookstore manager Duane Benson. “It’s a space saver but, since it’s reusable, it’s also great for the environment.”
Both Benson and Watson said college stores have evolved to include items other than books.
“Many students don’t have transportation,” Watson said. “That’s why there is a demand for many different types of merchandise.”
That includes apparel, often times from such well-known brands as Under Armour and Hurley.
“We are constantly looking for items that will trip the trigger for our students,” Watson said, adding that she frequently asks the opinions of student bookstore workers regarding new product line.
“Trends are constantly changing,” she said. “But we want to stay on the cutting edge.”
How does your store stay ahead of student trends? What hot new products are you carrying this fall? Tell us in the comments section!
The mobile commerce space is growing rapidly and marketers are increasingly turning to new technologies such as NFC and augmented reality, as well as classics including SMS and mobile advertising to increase revenue.
The mobile commerce space has changed over the years. However, marketers are gradually incorporating traditional and emerging mediums to drive engagement and sales.
“There is no doubt that from devices, to trials, to full-blown launches, mobile payments are accelerating and starting to look like they will become a real business,” said Drew Sievers, CEO of mFoundry, San Francisco.
“Even more impressive are the numbers around mobile commerce, where someone purchases a digital or remote item through their mobile phone,” he said.
“The best marketers are using the mobile phone to acquire, retain and increase share of wallet from their customers. As with mobile banking, simply replicating the online experience isn’t enough, and marketers who mimic online will see lower rates of adoption and success.”
Near field communication is still rather new, but the technology will grow even further in the coming years.
NFC lets consumers use their mobile devices to interact with almost any real-world object such as posters, clothes and shop windows.
Currently, Google Wallet and Isis lead the NFC race.
However, as adoption continues to grow, more companies will jump on board.
NFC has the potential to be so much more than it is now.
Consumers are increasingly using their mobile devices to make purchases – both large and small.
Therefore, giving them an option to pay for goods and services through mobile will be crucial – especially for retailers.
“As more phones hit the market with NFC support, you can expect further growth and acceleration in the mobile payments industry,” Mr. Sievers said.
“While it will still be a small percentage of traditional purchases, the growth should be impressive,” he said.
Location-based mobile advertising
Many retailers such as Target, JCPenney and Macy’s continually turn to mobile advertising to drive in-store traffic, as well as help increase sales.
Mobile advertising is a great way for companies to reach a wide audience.
In past months, marketers have added location to the mix to better target consumers.
For example, Victoria’s Secret and Best Buy have been adding location to their mobile advertising strategies to help consumers find the nearest physical location.
Many consumers are still wary of purchasing items through their mobile devices.
Therefore using mobile advertising to drive foot traffic is a smart move.
“Marketers understand that this new shopper is digitally savvy and is interested in getting the best offers,” said Cyriac Roeding, CEO of shopkick.
“Retailers now have the ability to reach consumers all the time, whether they browse new items within the application while at home sitting on their couch, to the time they come into the store to earn walk-in rewards and check-out offers in person.
“Mobile will soon be the No. 1 marketing medium for physical retailers and is the key to their future success.”
SMS is one of the simplest and most effective ways that marketers can increase revenue.
Firstly, the medium is a great way for companies to build their databases. From there, they can send out timely SMS messages that inform consumers of upcoming sales and other mobile exclusives.
Companies such as Macy’s, Target, Gap and Victoria’s Secret have all used SMS effectively.
For example, whenever Macy’s has an upcoming sale it sends out an SMS message to its opted-in database to inform them about it.
Additionally, Gap recently partnered with Visa to offer cardmembers mobile discounts when they opt-in to its service.
Incentives are a great way to engage consumers and including them in a call-to-action or within a text message may prove to be effective.
There is an ongoing debate with QR codes.
Marketers either completely love them or completely hate them.
However, companies such as Express, Boston Market, Starbucks, Walmart and McDonald’s have implanted mobile bar codes into their strategies.
Retailer Express continuously places QR codes on its direct mail to let consumers shop featured looks.
Restaurant chain Boston Market drove consumers to its locations via a campaign that incorporates QR codes and enticed users to scan them by offering prizes.
McDonald’s recently put QR codes on its packaging as part of an ongoing effort to help customers lead a nutritious life and make informed choices.
The fast food giant introduced the new nutrition mobile bar code on packaging at its Olympic venue restaurants.
When used correctly, QR codes can be very valuable to a marketer’s strategy.
By linking the mobile bar codes to an incentive, companies entice consumers to scan them and connect with them on a deeper level.
Mobile and social inherently go hand-in-hand.
When married together, the result is incomparable.
Recently, with Instagram and Pinterest entering the space, marketers, brands and retailers are able to drive purchase intent, while starting a dialogue with new and existing customers.
Additionally, marketers are increasingly adding social into their mobile apps, sites, SMS campaigns and other mobile efforts.
“We are seeing a major shift among brands as they recognize the need to deliver distinct experiences across all mobile channels,” said Carin Van Vuuren, chief marketing officer at Usablenet.
“It’s abundantly clear that consumers do not want to browse a mini version of the desktop website from their phones,” she said. “Instead, customers expect unique experiences in mobile that take into account what they are trying to do in the moment and at that particular stage of their journey.
“Further, mobile is the channel of choice for social, forcing minimum requirements on mobile now to include deep social integration to enhance the mobile experience and enable users to share favorite products and purchases with their networks as part of their shopping experience.”
When it comes to customer loyalty, complaints and dissatisfaction are often seen as problems. But they offer great opportunities, according to research conducted by the Customer Contact Council, a division of the Corporate Executive Board. The study of more than 75,000 people revealed that reducing customers’ effort—the work they must do to get their problem solved—builds loyalty, and acting deliberately on complaints can help improve customer service, reduce customer service costs and decrease customer churn.
To maximize your business success, and to keep your customers as loyal as possible, you need to ensure that you are able to address more and more complaints, suggests Don Peppers, speaker, consultant and co-author of Extreme Trust. The more complaints you discover, the more opportunities you have to build your business.
First, make it easy to complain. Be sure to publicize a toll-free number, an address and an email address for complaints, in addition to making it a simple option on your website. Give customers multiple avenues for voicing any problems. Monitor these channels 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Outsource this function if you have to. Monitor social media traffic for any mention of your brand, your product or your business, and reach out immediately to complainers. Twitter has become the complaining channel of choice for many today, so don’t let those complaints go untended. Better to respond in minutes, rather than in hours, and letting a day or more go by is unacceptable.
Always get back to a complaining customer with a direct phone or email contact, rather than simply asking him to contact you with more detail, and then do get back to him, promptly. In addition, be sure to ask permission to contact a customer a few days after any unusual or stressful transaction. Do not try to sell anything with this outreach, whether it is by email or phone. Just verify whether everything went okay, and ask how your company might have done anything better.
By taking these few steps to address dissatisfied customers‘ concerns, you can turn disloyal, vocal, complainers into loyal shoppers.
How do you address customer concerns? Share your strategy in the comments section.
The rules of search have changed. In fact, they change on a daily basis. But never so dramatically has rank been uprooted since the explosion of social media. Social media sites, especially the power houses of Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn, have become backlink central for affecting organic search results.
Social media’s influence on driving business via the web is expected to surpass search engine optimization (SEO) in 2013, according to eMarketer. Web marketers and PR professionals must pay attention to how social media affects search, and ultimately how it can change the rules of online visibility and (online) brand engagement.
Prior to Facebook’s takeover of the online universe (800 million active users today), online visibility in natural search was a sum of several measurable components: SEO site compliance on site structure and meta tags/content, directory link submissions and qualified and relevant site/blog linking.
In 2010 the game officially changed, with Google’s support of social media — author reputation, bookmarking, commenting, as well as a number of other social factors (Likes, tweets, retweets, shares, etc.) — as a major factor in how it ranks websites and blogs in its algorithm. Real-time search in Google meant that search was only as valuable as the latest blog post, social share and comment.
Today, the line is blurring. And this causes some confusion for web marketers. Should they focus on optimizing and driving traffic to their social pages? To their website? Where does their online brand live? How do they communicate their brand value proposition, whether their personal or corporate brand?
The good news is that technology has advanced so that web marketers can manage their content and sites through the use of simple and effective blogging tools. Further, those blog tool properties, such as WordPress, support integration of social plug-ins and necessary content for social sharing including video, effective product/service literature and tagged imagery. And so, marketers can use social and manage their web presence to support online brand consistency.
So, how can you use social media to increase your SEO rank and ensure that the rank and ensuing traffic will convert to web business?
1. Define Your Brand
First, you must create and understand a parallel social media optimization/search engine optimization strategy. All creators of content on your team (copy, social commenting, videos and imagery) need to be on one brand team. The approach must be holistic. A unified brand message must drive visibility across all content and all channels.
2. Find Your Keyword
To define a common strategy for execution across standard SEO practices as well as across social media content development and sharing, marketers must rethink keyword development. The questions become less about search visibility versus obvious competition and more introspective in terms of what the corporate and executive brand mean.
Ask your team questions such as: What is our brand value proposition? What do we want our audience to say about us? How will we incent out audience? How will we be leaders? Why will people follow us? Answering these questions will help you to zone in on your top branded, broad-based and narrow-based keywords.
3. Create a Plan of Action
Once these target keyword phrases have been developed, you will need an actionable task plan to follow and with which to measure effectiveness of your new blended social/SEO strategy. The strategy must contain: content types and frequency, such as a weekly webinar production and planned outreach per social channel and media (social) buys/ads with effective messaging and resulting goals.
Determining success in social affects search visibility such that the quality of the author, relevancy of the topical content, number of followers, number of comments/retweets and number of shares of blog posts must be considered and followed for search visibility to pull from success in these metrics.
4. Don’t Forget SEO Basics
When determining how you will rank in natural search for branded and business-driving keywords, first do the ABCs of SEO work in terms of on-site optimization wherever your online marketing plan calls for conversion.
Once that has been completed, rein in your social and search teams to determine your custom strategy and measurable plan. Remember that, just like traditional SEO practices, social media optimization work must be consistent, authentic, managed daily and measured for success.
Change is an admittedly difficult, yet necessary, part of any operation. Without it, companies can become quickly outdated in the ever-evolving marketplace. That’s why change has become such an integral aspect of collegiate retail. Recognizing this fact, BYU-Idaho University Store decided it was time to update their textbook department by reorganizing with textbooks shelved by author rather than course.
“We learned that San Diego State University Bookstore had been organizing their textbooks like this for nearly 30 years, so we wanted to learn more,” explained Ryan Buttars, merchandise supervisor. “There was some hesitation because it was a big change to make. However, after reviewing their program, we knew we had to try it.”
As with any new venture, there was a short adjustment period for students and faculty.
“We went through a few semesters with some confusion but, after that, it was smooth sailing,” Buttars said.
Since then, the store has seen several significant advantages from the reorganization.
“It’s an excellent space-saver because we don’t have to shelve a title in multiple locations for various courses,” he explained. “We also spend less time in preparation for rush periods and, as a result, spend less in payroll.”
For students, the change has made the book buying experience even more convenient.
“There’s less confusion in searching for books,” he said. “Students simply follow all of our signage and their book is right there. It’s very intuitive.”
The only drawback they have found is that some students browse for books by discipline, just out of curiosity.
“Those few patrons simply have to go to our text desk for assistance,” he added.
In fact, the newly organized textbook department was such a success that the other stores soon took notice. For example, BYU-Idaho University Store’s staff later helped Utah State University Bookstore and BYU Bookstore change their text department, too. Both stores found it to be just as beneficial.
“In the words of our director, Doug, Mason, “I can’t see why all college stores aren’t doing this!” added Buttars.
To those who are considering the change, Buttars strongly recommends it.
“Just because we’ve always done things a certain way, doesn’t mean it’s the best way,” he stressed. “Every change you make should be done with the customer in mind, and this is one that will certainly make their experience more convenient. It’s been proven as an effective organization; I haven’t heard of one store that’s made the change and gone back to the old way.”
How does your store organize your textbook department? Share your feedback in the comments section!
The following article, 5 Consumer Trends You Can’t Afford to Ignore This Holiday Season, was written by Denise Zaraya for ClickZ.com.
Let’s be honest, for many retail marketers this holiday season is shaping up to be scarier than living without your iPhone for a week.
Last year, 62 percent of consumers said their holiday plans were affected by the economy. And we are certainly still on shaky ground. This is a year fraught with challenges that will affect consumer confidence, such as weak jobs forecasts and the ongoing debt crisis fallout abroad.
Despite the gloom and doom, retailers should remain optimistic about this holiday season. Research shows that the economy’s imprint on consumer buying won’t go deep enough to impact holiday shopping. In fact, for the past two years, holiday retail growth has been back to pre-recession levels, with 2011 sales peaking to $465 billion, up 4.13 percent from 2010.
So what do you need to do to ring the registers this holiday season? Pay attention to emerging consumer trends and identify opportunities to move the revenue needle. Here are the top five that marketers can capitalize on to increase revenue this holiday season:
Trend No. 1: Consumers Are Shopping Smarter
Yes, retail marketers, there will be holiday buying this year. In fact, 10.2 percent of consumers with a budget in mind are planning to spend more this year compared to last (up from 6.5 percent in July 2011), according to BIGinsight, a consumer-centric research provider. In today’s economy, consumers are more aggressively comparison shopping and conditioned to expect compelling offers, evidenced by the proliferation of deals websites like Gilt.com and the popularity of holiday “doorbusters.”
Trend No. 2: The Holidays Are Getting Earlier Each Year
Although late November and December are considered the most critical time to advertise to holiday shoppers, 40 percent of consumer shopping activity begins before Halloween. There is a growing disconnect between when advertisers spend a majority of their dollars and when consumers shop. Starting advertising campaigns earlier in the season reaches the early-bird shopper and often means more competitive rates and less ad clutter.
Trend No. 3: It Will Be a Very Mobile Holiday
Smartphones and tablets have become our on-the-go tools to enhance the holiday shopping experience – from product research to searching store locations and directions. But it’s important to note that tablet and smartphone behaviors are very different. Consumers mainly use smartphones as a utility device to aid in shopping, but choose to use tablets to make an actual purchase.
Trend No. 4: Thanksgiving Is Rising in the Ranks as a Key Shopping Day
More retailers are incentivizing shoppers to stop talking turkey and start shopping pre- or post-meal on Thanksgiving Day. And it’s working. Approximately 28 million people put down the pumpkin pie to start their holiday shopping last Thanksgiving, boosting day-of sales to $28 million from $16 million in 2008.
Trend No. 5: Holiday Commerce Is Increasingly E-Commerce
Retailers are reaping the benefits of consumers’ love of the selection, values, and convenience of online shopping, especially during the holidays. On average, people plan to do 36 percent of their holiday shopping online, the highest it’s been in five years. Research into 500 digital holiday ad campaigns shows a sales lift of up to 650 percent when retailers run their ads during key shopping days.
When does your store start preparing for the holiday season? How do you plan to entice shoppers? Share you strategies in the comments section below.
The following excerpt is from the article 3 Tips for Maximizing Foursquare’s New ‘Local Updates’ Loyalty Feature, written by Nick Cicero, social media strategist, for SocialFresh.com.
Have you taken advantage of Foursquare’s new product offering for merchants yet?
The new feature, Local Updates makes use of Foursquare’s recently added Like feature and gives businesses the opportunity to connect beyond the deal, hyper-locally, with their most loyal (and nearby) customers.
Foursquare’s Local Updates lets businesses push out messages in the stream. The same way you would normally see where your friend’s are, their shouts, and photos, you will now see updates from businesses you have liked or frequent. This is yet another improvement of the service by Foursquare that gives businesses more options for reaching loyal and nearby users.
It also, coincidentally, paves the way for Foursquare to do what Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Stumbleupon have already done in creating a paid ad product for content in the stream. Which could also be a boon for businesses on Foursquare.
Here is what these Local Updates look like.
Users will not just see your content if they are a loyal customer, it is also available through the explore tab that many Foursquare users make use of as a local search tool.
The ability to serve up local content opens up a world of new creative messaging opportunities for retailers. Here are a few ways organizations can start taking advantage of this new feature:
1. Encourage Likes and Check-Ins
In order to build an audience for the new feature, you’ll need to get some likes and check-ins. Ask patrons to like you on Foursquare wherever you can, online and off.
Connect with local influencers and host an event at your store. Seasons 52, in Orlando, hosts a number of these kinds of seasonal tastings to introduce their new menus, playing host to social influencers and weaving food and fun into the local community.
Give Foursquare users a reason to come to your venue a few times and you are essentially building a subscriber list for your Local Updates.
2. Use High-Quality Photos
Local Updates are image-centric, and offer brands the option to add text, a special, and up to three images which you can swipe through in the friends feed of the mobile application.
Key takeaway here: make your customers drool. Steaming coffee at 7am, frost-brewed beers at 5:00. Make the experience valuable, not just another forced ad.
3. Use Local Updates with Loyalty Specials to build customer affinity programs
Thanks to the suite of merchant tools now available, there are some options to create unique loyalty programs through foursquare. Consider offering unique rewards for regular visits to your store through the platform.
Do you plan on testing out Local Updates? Leave us your thoughts in the comments section!
The following excerpt is from the article ‘How To Save Bookstores: 28 Ideas From Existing Locations’ written for the Huffington Post Books section. Below are 10 of ideas other stores compiled, read the full article to see the rest.
Real-world bookstores are suffering. We all know why.
However, they are far from gone from our lives, and the iconic San Francisco bookstore Kepler’s has been trying to make sure that that day never comes, by encouraging a group of experts to rethink the modern bookstore. Ron Charles of the Washington Post summed up their three-day discussions with a series of blogposts.
In the end, the group came up with eight foundational principles for the reborn Kepler’s. The new store must:
1. Be financially sustainable.
2. Have a clearly defined mission.
3. Be dedicated to community outreach.
4. Serve as a gathering place for creative events and social events.
5. Support life-long learning and literary education.
6. Sell books in any form, on any platform.
7. Maintain a virtual presence, with technology fully integrated into the store.
8. Provide a carefully curated selection of books.
The bookstore is a physical experience that digital technology can’t replicate. People like the idea that they exist, but they need a compelling reason not to save money by ordering from an online bookseller who has none of the overheads of a real-world store.
So bookstores will only survive if they make the most of the very attributes that make them not Amazon.
Here’s a list of ideas, inspired by bookstores around the globe, that might just help the humble bookstore to survive for a few more generations:
Specialize: By focusing on a particular theme and not straying from it, the MIT Press Bookstore has a fanatical following for this reason. “I spent a few hours here and I was amazed. Literally, every book here is an idea. I found so many interesting books that I had to write down all the titles. They have books published by the MIT Press, but also titles from other academic publishers. Whoever curates the selection is outstanding.” — Yelp review by Terri Y.
Offer memberships: Membership clubs, such as that of Skylight Books, make people feel connected, engage more with what you’re doing, and provide some much-needed cash up front. Member discounts also encourage local shopping, not super shipping.
Host unusual events: Readings? How staid. Why not host weird parties, music, celebrations, costume competitions, fan nights centered around books? That’s what Brookline Booksmith did for the paperback launch of “The Night Circus,” with themed food, decorations, costumes, a tarot card reader, a live band and dancers, and a fun and lively author Q+A. Readers who were there won’t forget it in a hurry (and neither will we).
- Show the value of print: Witness what Strand Bookstore puts on its remaindered titles. Print, it’s time to fight back
- Don’t ban cell phones: Some bookstores have a ‘no smartphone usage’ policy. ‘No rude talking on cell phones’ is one thing, but ‘no looking things up on Amazon’ will only succeed in making people feel badly about the store. If they really want to buy a book on Amazon that they’ve looked at in your store, you won’t stop them. Giving them a negative association with your store means they’ll not only do it again – but probably not come back.
Bundle books, movies and music together: The new Hunger Games movie DVD comes in a variety of special-edition box sets with free pendants, backpacks, jewelry – but not the book. Yet as Small Demons demonstrates, books are connected to other cultural objects in myriad ways. Why not make those visible and offer special themed bundles?
Team up with other local brands: For a local bookstore to thrive, it needs to be an essential part of the community – and that includes the community of vendors as well as consumers. So why not team up with local brewers, like The Spotty Dog in Hudson, NY? You could offer poetry for their beer labels, introduce literary-themed screenings at the local arthouse cinema, donate books to your local coffee shop’s reading corner… and encourage them to come into the store and recommend books as well.
Make your staff a feature of the store: Staff recommendations – like this nicely designed example from Politics & Prose – are great, but why stop there? Why not let each staff member make a small booklet of their top books, or include special “Jane recommended this. Here’s others she thinks you might like” bookmarks inside certain purchases or add them to your website? Knowledgeable and friendly bookstore employees are one of the key benefits of real-world bookstores. Use them wisely.
Sell Online: Amazon isn’t the only company who can sell online. And why not offer value Amazon can’t? Signed copies, extra presents, surprise packages, reading guides… enhance the reading experience and customers will love you for it.
How does your store stay ahead of the competition? Add to the list by sharing your ideas in the comments section!
Last week, we told you about how Otero Junior College Bookstore has increased sales and traffic by offering gas cards through student accounts. The store isn’t alone in the idea either; Rio Grande Community College Bookstore is offering a similar promotion with the same success. Take a look at the following article on the topic written by Daniel J. Pender, news editor for NACS‘ Campus Marketplace and CM Scan publications.
As director of the University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College Bookstore, Rio Grande, OH, David Ding knows the key to retail success is driving foot traffic. Students and the campus community can’t make a purchase if they have no reason to visit a store, after all. As textbook sales dwindled with an increase in online competition and popularity of digital course materials, Ding began to reassess what services his store should offer.
Ding followed the path of those who’ve seen college store retailing success. His store increased the amount of print textbooks available for rent and the amount of e-textbooks offered to his students through third-party partnerships. Although making as many options accessible is key to success in today’s college store business climate, it may be some nontraditional college store offerings that’s made the Rio Grande store financially viable in a troubled economy.
The Rio Grand campus has about 2,500 students, almost 2,000 of whom are commuters. That, added to the fact that 75% of the campus population is on some form of financial aid, left many students struggling to manage expenses while waiting for aid checks.
One of those major expenses is paying for gas to get back and forth to class.
Ding spoke to a friend and colleague who mentioned her store’s practice of purchasing gas cards from local stations and reselling them in the store.
“This will be our second year doing this,” he noted.
The store goes to the local Speedway station to obtain a quantity of cards for resale. The store only allows students to purchase $300 worth of gas cards per visit and only sells the cards the first week of school. With the support of the administration, accommodations are made for eligible students waiting for financial aid, Ding said.
Through two book rushes last year, the store sold about $150,000 worth of gas cards.
“This year I would expect us to be well over $200,000,” Ding said.
A few issues came to light when the program first got underway. First, the Speedway station was not ready for the amount of gas cards to come through, but has since worked through its issues to accommodate the gas card use. Another issue was ensuring students had a complete understanding of why this program was instituted.
“I went to all the freshman success classes and spelled out the rules and pleaded with them not to abuse the system, because if enough complaints come around, then we’ll get cut off,” he said. “I haven’t heard of any other issues.”
The idea has generated thoughts of helping students with other education living expenses, such as a partnership with a local grocery store.
Two other services recently offered by the store can be attributed to the increase in sales. One is making student IDs, and the other is running background checks. Campus police used to handle those services, but could only offer them during limited hours. The IDs ensure every student comes into the store at least once. The background checks brings people from the surrounding community to the store.
The College Store magazine recently did an article on Pg. 47 of the 2012 July/August edition that highlighted 15 products or services college stores should offer that includes a background check service.
“I’m always about getting them in the doors to see what we have,” Ding said. “Teachers and students in the health profession all have to have background checks that are billed against financial aid. In addition, any health facilities in the area—nursing homes, hospitals, and such—all require background checks for employees.”
The store began offering the checks last August and have completed between 600 and 700, only half of which were students. The only other place in the county that offers the background check is the sheriff’s office.
“It’s about ease of access for students and the community,” Ding said. “And there’s a pretty good margin.”
Siobhan Spiak and Katie Harada have spent months discussing in painstaking detail the décor of the 185-square-foot dorm room they will share this fall at American University in Washington, D.C.
Together, they envision a bohemian theme: walls painted robin’s-egg blue, floor-length mosaic-print curtains, large plush pillows, tribal-print tapestries and strings of hanging Christmas lights. They plan to use soft lighting and touchable fabrics in purples, blues and greens. Ms. Spiak wants to buy a four-poster canopy bed.
A growing number of retailers are creating specialized services for college students, such as online college checklists and videos of design ideas. Bed Bath & Beyond and the Container Store offer college gift registries. Target holds after-hours shopping events featuring dorm specials. And a number of retailers now offer direct-to-dorm delivery.
According to the National Retail Federation, freshman students and their families will spend an average of $374 on dorm furnishings and electronics, making up more than a third of total spending for college goods. Freshman students and families are spending nearly 11% more now than they did five years ago, averaging $929 per family in 2012 compared with $839 in 2007.
Some families predict spending a lot more. Corrie Bowen, whose daughter Nora will be leaving Williston Park, N.Y. to attend Pennsylvania State University, thinks they will shell out closer to $1,500. To attract the campus set, many stores begin advertising for the back-to-school season—the second-biggest shopping period of the year after Christmas—in March.
Ms. Spiak, the freshman from Phoenix, says she spends hours each week browsing online and looks at what her friends are buying online.
Ms. Spiak says she is “paranoid” about falling behind. Less than one week before move-in day, all she bought so far is a spork, a multipurpose utensil she picked up at an art museum. “At least it’s a start,” she says.
College shopping didn’t used to be so complex. Cindy Adams, whose son Marc will be attending the University of Rhode Island in the fall, says when she first went to college, she bought “some sheets, towels, a bedspread and that’s pretty much it.”
Ms. Adams and her husband Julius, who live in Rego Park, N.Y., are spearheading their son’s shopping efforts. “I picked out his pillows and comforter. It’s blue-and-white striped,” she says. Her husband adds, “We texted him photos.”
For his part, Marc contacted his future roommates, and together they identified the essentials. “I’m bringing the microwave, speakers and printer,” Marc says. “They’re bringing the TV, fridge and the Xbox 360.”
Jason Pina, who has worked in student affairs at colleges for nearly 20 years, says he sees fewer roommate pairs showing up with duplicate items because they have already planned in advance.
Janice Katz of Manhattan has also led dorm shopping for her daughter, Jacqui, a freshman attending Tulane University. Ms. Katz picked up the Container Store’s college list earlier in the summer, and she and Jacqui ordered more than $400 of stuff, including drawer liners, skinny hangers, poster tabs and bulletin boards. They arranged for the company to ship their purchases to New Orleans.
In recent years, many colleges have updated residence halls as a way to stand out among competitors. Some rooms are equipped with individual room-temperature controls, private bathrooms and built-in flat-screen televisions. Common lounge spaces can feature furnished kitchens, tea and coffee services and study and game tables, like pool, air hockey and ping pong.
Still, the size of the rooms has remained much the same. So as students’ shopping lists get longer, they’re arriving with more gear than rooms can hold.
Mr. Moody, the American University administrator, says he still sees families show up with U-Hauls on move-in day. After realizing that they can’t possibly fit everything into the school’s average 180-square-foot dorm room, the parents return home with the truck full of things that didn’t make the cut.
Mr. Pina advises students not to worry about remembering every single thing.
“It’s better to forget an item or two and bring it later,” he says. “You don’t have to bring your winter coat in August.”
Does your store offer dorm decor, a delivery service, or other move-in essentials? Tell us about them in the comments sections!