Although a rental program had long been in place at Three Rivers College Bookstore, Bob Jansen, director, decided that it could use a little updating. With the goal of becoming the most profitable college store in the nation as a percentage of sales with one of the lowest textbook costs, he wanted to expand the store’s program. Recognizing the difficulties of doing so on an outdated system, however, Jansen first went in search of a serialized rental program that could be more effectively managed.
“We were doing lots of manual tracking and we just didn’t have the level of control that we needed over our rentals,” he explained. “It was time for a change.”
After weighing his options, Jansen chose the MBS System to help him further improve the program.
“The MBS system gave us accountability; it allowed us to maintain control by better tracking our inventory,” he said. ‘It was a very cost-effective option and because I had used the MBS point-of-sale before, I was confident in them as a company and knew I could easily adapt to the rental module.”
With a much more manageable system in place, his staff set about updating the program’s policies and gaining the support of both students and faculty. Their main premise, according to Jansen, is that a store can provide students with one of the lowest cost textbook options while still making a profit, as long as the program is widely adopted and fees are mandatory.
As part of this structure, the store charges students a $30 rental fee at the time of registration rather than when they pick up the textbook, ensuring 100% participation and shifting responsibility to the student.
The vast majority of faculty on campus support the program by agreeing to use their adopted course materials through the life of the edition, which in turn allows approximately 65% of the store’s volume to be designated as rentals.
With at times as much as 10% of students not returning their rentals, the store is constantly tweaking their rental policies; the new policies have helped to lower their non-return book ratio.
“Many stores tend to charge students the full price of the textbook right at the rental return deadline and are inflexible about late returns,” Jansen explained. “But, in the grand scheme of things, you want that book back because it’s cheaper than purchasing a replacement. We’re working to find an optimal policy that will help us balance these two issues.”
In the past, the store charged students for the text plus an additional fine, and then returned everything but the fine fee in the event that a student brings back the book. In many cases, though, that process has resulted in extensive labor, and did not lower the non-return book ratio.
“We’re looking into a new policy that would charge students a fine at the deadline, then give them a leniency period in which they could return the book,” he explained. “After that period, they would be charged the full cost of the text. We would allow for a 25% buy back value if the student later wanted to sell the book back to us, assuming the book is still being used. It’s a process we’re constantly trying to refine.”
The combination of better management through the MBS system, new policies, and of course hard work, all helped Three Rivers College Store achieve more than 26% net profit for fiscal year 2011.
“The MBS System and serialized rental program have allowed us to get more control over our program and made it much easier to manage,” he added. “As a result, we were able to make more money. I can now definitely say that our program benefits both students and the campus as a whole financially!”
Jansen maintains that he couldn’t have done it on his own though.
“In order to make this kind of program effective, you have to have the cooperation of key players on campus such as faculty and administration,” he said. “We’re grateful for their support.”
As for the future, Jansen has no plans of slowing down the store’s success anytime soon!
“I plan to continually improve the policies and procedures that we implement and ultimately, try and increase student understanding of the program,” he explained. “A program is only as successful as the students who use it!”