In an industry where the majority of business is conducted during just a few weeks each year, one of the many challenges of running a college bookstore is keeping people coming in-store between rush and buyback. Flagler College Bookstore figured out a great way to do it, with the help of an ancient philosopher.
Enter the store's "Find Plato" promotion. An ongoing event, the bookstore hides a tiny Plato finger puppet in the store, with a note telling lucky customers that they can present Plato for 25% off their purchase of anything in the store, excluding only textbooks and course materials.
Retail and Communications Manager Nichol Weisbecker said she first came up with the idea after seeing a similar promotion at a local store, Declaration and Co.
"They always have the cutest ideas," she said. "They hid a tiny stuffed mouse with the note, 'take me to the register for 15% off your purchase.' We already had a tiny Plato finger puppet from Unemployed Philosopher’s Guild, and he fit our academic atmosphere perfectly."
As simply as that, Flagler began its "Find Plato" promotion about a year and a half ago. It has run non-stop since.
"Occasionally we’ll post a picture of him hiding on social media to stir up interest again, but for the most part Plato promotes himself," Weisbecker said. "It’s become one of our most popular promotions, and requires the least work. I think this promotion is here to stay for us."
The allure of lucking into a 25% discount simply for walking in the door is strong enough to give Flagler a supply of regular visitors who are on the hunt for Plato. The philosopher is typically found hiding among any number of merchandise items about twice a week during the regular term, and once a week during the summer.
Weisbecker noted the promotion is worth it just for the uptick in foot traffic, and since course materials are excluded, the cost to Flagler is fairly minimal. Most students elect to utilize their discount on apparel, earbuds or even simply snacks.
"He has increased our foot traffic during the slowest part of the year — the middle of the semester," she said. "We continue the promotion because the students love finding Plato. The students who find him are always so excited and feel like they have achieved something. It’s really cute to watch how happy the customers get when they find Plato. It’s such a simple promotion and creates a positive experience in the bookstore."
Customers even get to be a part of continuing the tradition of finding Plato — the lucky shopper who finds him gets the honors of hiding him again elsewhere in the store. This does lead to the possibility of Plato being found twice in one day, but this has only happened a few times; most shoppers are surprisingly adept at hiding the ancient Athenian.
"I definitely recommend this promotion to other stores," Weisbecker said. "We are all busy, and it’s easy to pass up promotion ideas that sound complicated. I think this promotion is the exception to that. It should only take a few minutes to set up and promote."