Since last October, University Book Store at University of Wisconsin – Madison has been under renovation. The 20,000 square foot remodel focused on adding space to their selling area and creating a more retail-centric atmosphere. The results, according to director Kevin Phelps, are phenomenal.
“We’ve seen a steady increase in clothing and gift sales over the years, so we went where the dollars are,” he explained. “For that reason, a big part of the expansion was increasing our main sales floor. We tripled the area devoted to apparel and merchandise.”
The renovations resolved issues that had impeded traffic in the past, improving the overall experience for customers. For instance, shopping during busy events like game days was previously difficult because the floor was so packed with merchandise. Racks held two or three items, further reducing product visibility. So, when their location expanded, that was one of the first items Phelps and his staff addressed.
“We went section by section through the sales floor and adjusted each area to maximize its effectiveness. Now, there’s ample room to browse and everything has its own place; the transformation is truly amazing,” he emphasized.
The updates also presented the perfect opportunity to restructure the store’s layout.
“Our cash wrap area has been in the same place since 1972, and it was time for a change,” he described. “During the renovation, we reassessed everything and basically started over. We moved our entrance to face one of the busiest pedestrian corners on campus and situated our POS systems and checkout lanes accordingly.”
With an enhanced floor plan, the store has also been able to increase their offerings.
“Greek items, collegiate gifts, clothing; you name it, we have it!” Phelps added.
They’ve also added concept shops from big brands like Adidas, Jansport and Champion, giving the store a more retail-oriented experience. Despite the new focus, Phelps wanted to ensure that the look and feel of the store still reflected the campus atmosphere.
“We wanted students to know that they were coming into the official bookstore, so there are large lifestyle pictures hung throughout the store” he said. “The overall look is really neat; it’s bright, clean and definitely gives you the feeling that you’re in a fan shop.”
At their Grand Re-Opening event, held in early May, the store debuted the changes to their most important critics: their customers. And, the response they received was overwhelming. With thousands of students, faculty, staff and community members in attendance, they initiated their new location with a bang!
“’Wow’ was the first thing out of most people’s mouths as they entered,” Phelps described. “It’s such a drastic change and a completely new experience. The feedback has been amazing.”
Customers’ enthusiasm for the updated location was reflected in sales, as well. The store experienced sales that day that rivaled a big home football game.
“We were thrilled to receive such a positive reaction from the public,” Phelps said. “I think that the renovations will have a lasting impact on both sales and traffic. People are excited to come by and see us and that’s always a good thing!”