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How College Stores Are Adapting to Changes in Retail

Posted by Liz Schulte on 7/15/20 6:30 AM
Topics: campus stores, college store industry, college store trends

As COVID-19 is changing retail, campus stores are rearranging and remodeling their space to meet the current demands for health and safety. As college stores reopen, they must consider how students and customers can safely shop in the store and how the current environment has evolved customers’ retail expectations.

How College Stores Adapt to Changes in RetailToday, we will look at ways three collegiate retailers have updated their layout and changed their offerings to provide students more shopping options.

Hagerstown Community College Bookstore ensures every student has the opportunity to purchase materials

Hagerstown Community College Bookstore Manager Tammy Crockett knew students would need a better way to get their materials for summer rush. She looked at what other businesses around her were doing to customers and devised a plan. She wanted the store to serve students, keep them safe and give them convenient, one-stop shopping. And she accomplished all of these things with a drive-through event.

However, she also recognized a drive-up event might not work for every student, so the store also offered another more flexible option.

“We're even doing laptops online. If students are interested in buying a laptop, they can email me, and I will send out the specs to them. We have advertised that if students need to meet with us, we will set up a time to meet with them. They can email me or the bookstore site, and we will set appointments for those who need that. We ran the [drive-through] event from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. and some students work. They aren’t off until 5 p.m. So, we will stay to accommodate them,” Crocket said.

“We just decided to make it as easy as possible for students, especially with what's going on. I wanted them to feel like the bookstore is here for them and we will certainly continue to be,” Crockett said. “Students were so appreciative. We had students come in, and they just kept thanking us. They thought it was really a great idea. They said ‘Why not do this all the time during the summer. It is great to be outside and have this here.’ They really did appreciate the entire event.”

Read more about Hagerstown Community College Bookstore’s drive-through rush event.

SUNY Potsdam offers delivery, curbside pickup and changing the store layout for fall

College Store Director Lyndon Lake at SUNY Potsdam is ensuring that his store goes above and beyond to offer students ways to get materials and supplies from the store. In addition to curbside pickup, the store implemented delivery as well.

With a handful of students unable to return home when the campus closed down, the store knew it was important to offer them a way to get what they need. However, they haven’t stopped there. As fall approaches, they are also considering store traffic patterns and rearranging their set up to allow for social distancing and to streamline the way students move through the store. 

“To help with social distancing and to keep — and I didn't think I would ever say this in retail — the number of people down in the store, we are looking at just doing online ordering for textbooks. We will process the orders here and box them and then the student will come pick them up. Usually during rush, we have two long lines in the store. One line is people who need to purchase books and the other line is people who have preordered books and need to pick them up. And then there’s a third line of people buying school supplies and clothing,” Lake said. “We're looking at possibly moving to online order only for the fall.”

As college stores are making plans for fall, Mr. Lake recommends trying something you have never done before. 

“Don't be afraid to try something different. I think that's the biggest thing for us. We don’t know what the future is going to be. We’ve already started to come up with a Plan B and Plan C, so we don't get caught at the last minute,” Lake said. “Another thing I would strongly suggest is to reach out to your administrators. You need to be a part of the conversations happening around bringing people back to campus. We have 400 students that still have stuff in their dorms, even their books and clothes are still in the dorms, but they're back home. We've asked to be included in the conversation when they reopen the dorms. We will reach out to those students to say ‘Hey, we're here to help you. If you need boxes, if you want to return rentals or buyback, whatever you need.’ So, I guess that would be my advice. Just think outside of the box and reach out to the administration or other people on campus to be a part of the conversation.”

Read more about the fours significant changes the College Store at SUNY Potsdam made in response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Delta College Bookstore uses counter service to serve customers

Partnering with other campus departments and programs, the Delta College Bookstore has become the single campus location to get any materials students need for class. Just as the campus was shutting down, the store worked with the campus and IT department to ensure all students had access to laptops and hotspots. From there, the store has been able to help more areas of campus pass out student materials while still limited the amount of contact between students and staff, keeping everyone safe and healthy.

As Auxiliary Services Operations Supervisor Michael Williams prepares from Summer and Fall, the bookstore team has moved from the small cottage that they operated out of at the beginning of the pandemic back into their regular store location. However, to make the store location work for today’s environment, it required a few adjustments. 

“In the bookstore, we have two sets of double doors. We leave both sets wide open. We put rolling cash wraps in front of the doors and added plexiglass to them. We have been serving students right from the front doors of the bookstore,” Williams said. “We offer different ways to serve our students. We run a website that students have been encouraged from day one to place their orders and have them shipped to their homes. We also work with several campus programs that help students. Many times, these programs aren’t able to provide free shipping and maybe students can’t afford to pay shipping costs. So, we turned back on the curbside or in-store pickup options.”

Also, the store also considered how they could provide great service to students with limited resources.

“Another issue is that some students don’t have a device and can’t place their order online. At the end of the spring term, a lot of devices were returned, and now we have incoming freshmen. Those freshmen don’t currently have devices, so we get a lot of students who still walk up to order their textbooks. When a student walks up we write down all the books they need and ask them to go to a central area of campus about fifty feet from the front of the bookstore to wait in the open area where they can maintain social distancing. We give them a time to come back and we have their books ready and waiting for them. This helps prevent any gatherings in front of the store,” Williams said.

These stores are adjusting to a fast-changing industry. Through innovation, dedication and hard work, they have been able to elevate the student experience during a trying time.  


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