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Crunch Time: 5 Strategies for Managing College Stores During Finals

Posted by Lori Reese on 12/3/18 8:00 AM
Topics: finals, college retail, customer experience, student engagement

If you’ve worked on a campus before, you probably don’t need anyone to tell you when finals are approaching. You know because the term is coming to an end, of course, but you also know because the atmosphere changes. The collective tension-level rises. Students behave strangely: They’re easily triggered, easily confused and sometimes downright rude. It can be a rough time for collegiate retailers and their associates. But it can also be an opportunity to burnish your store’s reputation as a refuge from the academic grind.

Cruch Time 5 Strategies for Managing College Stores During Finals

Georgetown University lists a variety of symptoms common among students during crunch time: impatience, frustration, irritability over minor things, eye twitches and panic attacks are just a few. Finals bring heightened stress in part because young adults are still learning how to handle adult challenges. They know they need to study and write papers, but they forget about essentials like food, sleep, exercise and community. Like many schools, the University of California Davis has a student health office with a web page devoted to advice for finals.

However, many students never discover campus resources that can help them manage stress.That’s where the college store comes in: understanding personnel and well-placed products can help students feel supported, understood and connected even during the hardest parts of the school year.

5 Essential Strategies for Helping Students Navigate Finals 

  1. Promote nutritious snacks — Many students don’t realize the brain uses more energy than any other bodily organ. It doesn’t seem like sitting in front of a computer for hours should require so many calories, but if you need to stay mentally sharp, it does. Display nutritious high-protein snacks in prominent places and post signs that say, “It’s Finals: Don’t Forget Your Brain Food.” Create a display of quality comfort foods like low-sugar hot chocolate, microwave popcorn and vegetable soup. Post a sign that says something like, “Bet You Could Use Some Comfort Food.”
  2. Encourage (affordable) retail therapy — If the pleasure we find in picking out delightful products weren’t real, there would be no such thing as a shopaholic. Your store’s fun, low-cost merchandise can offer customers a much-needed perk without destroying their budgets. Give prominent placement to items like bargain lip glosses, fuzzy socks, wallet key-chains, cheerfully-colored smartphone cases and high-quality ink pens. Students will think of your store next time they want to brighten their day with a dash of low-cost retail therapy.
  3. Treat thirst — Students typically drink too much coffee and soda during finals and not nearly enough water. That leaves them dehydrated, which has a negative impact on mood, concentration and overall health. Promote logoed water bottles and low-cost spring water with signs that say, “Thirsty? Caffeine Works Best with an H2O Chaser” or “Does Your Brain Need a Pick-up? Try Nature’s No. 1 Elixir.”
  4. If asked, advise sleep — Sometimes a student says something to you about their mind-state that suggests they need a few comforting words.You don’t need a degree in psychology and you don’t have to know the details of their situation to know that sleep will probably help. Sometimes students think they’re “not allowed” to rest until all their tests and papers are done. In truth, they’re more likely to get better grades if they devote themselves to sleeping through the night instead of studying. Remind them that studies show sleep-deprived drivers function as badly on the road as drunk drivers.Sleep-deprived test-takers suffer just as much.
  5. Take care of yourself, too — You might not have a chemistry exam tomorrow, but when you’re on the front lines in collegiate customer service, you face challenges of your own. It’s not easy to maintain a smile and a calm tone of voice when customers are irritable, impatient, fatigued and disoriented. As finals approach, accept that you and your associates are likely to feel the impact of dealing with stressed-out customers. Make sure you eat well, get plenty of rest and don’t forget to exercise.Take extra-good care of yourself during finals. If you’re feeling better than usual, students are likely to experience a little lift just from being in your store.

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About Lori Reese

Lori Reese has more than 15 years’ experience teaching in college and K-12 classrooms. She studied philosophy as an undergraduate at the University of Chicago, earned an MA in English and Creative Writing from Hollins University and an MFA from University of North Carolina - Greensboro. At UNCG she won the Outstanding Graduate Teaching Award and received a Fulbright to conduct research for a novel in Sri Lanka. She has taught undergraduate creative writing, composition and literature as well as seminars for the Lloyd International International Honors Program. She worked in private K-12 education for two years as an English teacher and Academic Dean.

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