In the ever-changing landscape of collegiate retail, campus stores need revenue generating ideas that help fill in the financial gaps left by strained budgets and decreased textbooks sales. From pop-up shops to expanding bookstore services, campus stores develop ideas that push the boundaries of their traditional retail models to better serve their customers while generating additional top-line revenue. Recently, the Umpqua Community College Bookstore was given the opportunity to expand its service beyond campus and develop stronger community ties.
“We were approached by the Douglas County Education Service District (Douglas ESD) about the possibility of our store supplying the textbooks for their college programs at the high schools in the county,” Umpqua Community College Bookstore Manager Micque Shoemaker said. “Douglas County is one of the largest counties in Oregon, so there are quite a few high schools. We give them a discount on our regular retail price, and they submit their order by a date determined by our textbook specialist. It’s been a great program for the store. We would like to continue expanding this offering to other schools.”
As with any new program, it didn’t start without a couple bumps in the road. However, store management quickly adjusted to create a smoother, more streamlined process that ensured the schools had the books they needed on time and that the store’s associates weren’t overwhelmed during the busiest times of year.
“We figured out the kinks in the program as we encountered them. Going through the process helped us come to a better understanding of what works best for them and for us. Initially, the biggest issue we encountered was timing,” Shoemaker said. “The first term, we were receiving all of our books for fall at the same time as their books came in. There was a lot coordination we had to do to keep those orders separate.”
“Also, the first time they placed an order with us we didn’t have a lot of time to get the books here, which was a problem because there is a process we have to go through. That’s been corrected. Now, we get plenty of notice,” Umpqua Community College Bookstore Textbook/Course Materials Specialist Deborah Niebaum said. “If they place an order for a medical class, for example, I order and source the books just like we do for our classes. Then, the books are delivered here and checked in. After that, we package them and send them out to each high school or to the district. Invoices for each school are then created and sent to our single point of contact for the overall order. We had to build that timing into our process.”
“That’s right. It’s not just receiving the books. It’s then turning around and re-packaging them and shipping them to five or six different high school locations. It takes a massive amount of planning. When you are doing it for the first time, it’s like ‘Oh wow. We should have done this differently,’” Shoemaker said. “Debbie did a great job implementing the lessons learned along the way. She came up with ways to fix whatever issues we encountered. Now, we have cut offs for the orders, similar to the adoption deadlines for our faculty on campus. Debbie works directly with our contact at Douglas ESD, so they have that adoption schedule. It’s much smoother now.”
The program has been a success for the store and the community. Not only has the Umpqua Community College Bookstore been able to add much needed additional top-line revenue, they also helped the school district save time and expenses by pooling resources and sharing expertise.
“The recent changes in course materials and textbooks have decreased store revenue that we depend on. This definitely helps us fill that gap. If we didn’t have this relationship, we would experience a lot more budgetary pain,” Shoemaker said. “It’s been a wonderful opportunity for our store. We have added another bridge and built good relationships with the high schools in our county. It’s been a really positive program.”
“The schools pay the shipping costs on their orders, and as Micque said, we give them a discount on the books.” Niebaum said. “But the program is still bringing revenue into the store. I think we received about $50,000 from their orders last year.”
“From what we have heard, Douglas ESD values this partnership as well. Working with us saves them from having to hire someone to handle textbook sourcing for public schools that are offering college program courses,” Shoemaker said. “We already have the necessary experience and resources to efficiently manage their orders. It’s definitely a mutually beneficial partnership.”
If this sounds like a program your store could benefit from, Ms. Shoemaker has some tips to help you get started.
“I suggest reaching out to your local ESD. Make contact with them and start building that relationship. Ask if they offer college programs to students and ask them if sourcing textbooks is an area where they could use help. Make sure you outline the benefits of partnering with your store,” Shoemaker said. “It’s a partnership that relieves the pressure of adding an additional employee or adding to the workload of an existing employee. It’s also something that a college store can easily take care of because we’re sourcing those books anyway. We’re all facing financial challenges right now. By explaining how your store can help them relieve some that pressure, you can form a really great, mutually beneficial partnership.”