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Dakota State University Bookstore Triples Sales with Unique Event

Posted by admin on 12/1/13 10:00 PM
Topics: crowdsourcing, college store stories, college store promotions, merchandising, bookstore events, Marketing to Students

Out with the old, and in with the new. That’s the approach Ben Jastorff, manager of Trojan Center Bookstore at Dakota State University, adopted when he recently accepted the position at the store. Jastorff wanted to clear out inventory, some of which had been in the store for nearly two years, to make room for the updated apparel he had ordered.

“The previous director ran much higher margins, and I wanted to move those more expensive items,” he explained. “In this day and age, students want control over their purchases, so I decided to host a sale where they could negotiate what they paid for each item.”

His father, Michael Jastorff, director of Black Hills State University Bookstore, mentioned a promotion he had run years ago called The Godfather:Make Me an Offer Sale. The idea got the younger Jastorff's wheels spinning on how he could put an updated spin on that concept. As a result, he created the Pawn Stars Sale, based on the History Channel’s hit TV show.

“Most students are pretty familiar with the show, and it was an easy way for them to relate to the bartering concept,” he said. “We posted clips from the show on our Facebook page that taught students the ‘Art of Haggling’ and dressed some mannequins to look like The Old Man and Chumlee.”

During the event, students could select any branded merchandise within the store and bring it to a designated table with their offer. They could suggest a price for a single item, or for a bundle of six items. Jastorff would then decide if he wanted to accept their offer, or negotiate a better price.

“I was shocked by how many first offers I was able to accept,” he said. “Students were very fair in their negotiations. I pulled some reports on our apparel and used the margins we were running on the item, as well as the date we received it to determine my pricing decisions. On average, I would say most customers received about 30 percent off.”

The sale attracted more than just students, however. Jastorff bargained with several faculty members and even academic departments during the event. In total, the store was able to triple their daily sales over a two day span, with more than 75 customers taking advantage of the exciting option.

In fact, after two days, the store decided to extend the sale for an extra half day due to its success.

“I wasn’t sure what to expect in terms of attendance, because this was really the first big sale we’ve had since I started working at the store, but everyone loved it,” he described. “Students were really excited about having control over the prices; they liked being involved in the process.”

Best of all, the event accomplished his goal of moving old stock out of the store.

“We sold a good deal of our old merchandise; it sized me out of a lot of items,” he added. “The items that didn’t sell will go on the clearance rack, just in time for the holidays.”

Overall, Jastorff was pleased with the results and is looking forward to translating the concept behind the event into future promotions.

“I definitely think we’ll do something like this again; it was very well received,” he said. “Next year, we might change it up with the Pawn Stars Sale 2.0 or do something slightly different like a Geico Name Your Price type of deal – we’ll see!”

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