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Hillsdale College Store Lands Half of Enrollment with Reservations

Posted by Dean Asher on 3/1/15 11:00 PM
Topics: textbook reservation, college store stories
For many stores, having half of your total enrollment sign up for your textbook reservation program seems like a fantasy. For Hillsdale College Bookstore in Hillsdale, Michigan, it’s a reality.


For its most recent fall term, Hillsdale had about 570 students — almost half of the 1,200 total enrolled — sign up for the school’s early textbook reservation. The spring term saw another respectable 350 students reserve their titles.

Bookstore Director Cindy Willing said that their numbers have been steadily good lately, with an average of 500-600 reservations in the fall and 250-400 in spring. She said the store’s strategy for promotion has been to reach students early, while they’re still at home.

“If you can email your students prior to them getting onto campus, it’s a huge bonus,” she says. “We get most of our freshmen to participate this way. Mom and dad still have a big influence at this point and they really want things to be smooth for their student, so this seems to really hit home for the parents.”

Before they send students a reservation email about a week before they arrive on campus, the store also sends all incoming students reservation instructions and a coupon for 20 percent off an apparel item through the Admissions office. The coupon acts as an incentive for students to at least come in the store, even if they don’t make a reservation.

Hillsdale handles its reservations through the bookstore’s website. Students sign in and pay for their titles with a credit card or eligible financial aid. Books can be purchased or rented. Bookstore staff then pulls the books in the sequence orders are received, and students can pick them up from the store with a photo ID.

Willing adds that effectively selling books to underclassmen before they get on campus can keep them from feeling pressured by time or price, which could encourage them to try and find books on their own.

That's not to say the store doesn't focus on students who don't do reservations. After sending multiple emails making sure students are aware of the reservation cutoff date, they remind students who aren't interested in reservations that the Hillsdale store keeps plenty of available titles on its shelves and staff is happy to help them find what they need once they're on campus.

With convenience being the driving factor behind textbook reservations, Willing says the store sweetens the pot with extra utility: larger orders come in a tote box branded with the Hillsdale College Bookstore logo, which students find useful for under-the-bed storage in their dorm rooms.

“We have had to up our number of new textbook quantities to accommodate” the rise in reservations, she says. “Many of the freshmen just don’t want to have to worry about books once they are here, (so reserving) is one less thing for them to have to deal with.”


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