In 2020, Mount Aloysius College Bookstore once again saw an increase in textbook and merchandise sales. This relatively small college store with one full-time employee has been able to make smart updates to its website, procedures and offerings that have resulted in regaining market share.
“We’re a relatively small college store. There isn’t a lot of space and my staff is limited, but we strive to do as much as possible. When it comes to social media, I mostly focus my efforts on Facebook rather than spreading myself too thin. Because I am the only full-time person here, time can be a challenge, but I appreciate the impact even a small amount of focused social media effort can make on sales,” Christine Clinton, Bookstore Manager, Mount Aloysius College said. “One year, I had a goal to get 50 more likes on Facebook. I worked out a marketing strategy and promoted sales, hosting a few little contests through Facebook. It didn’t take a lot of time, but it engaged more students which was my goal.”
Over the last few semesters, the store has experienced a steady uptick in textbook and merchandise sales. Even though 2020 was an extremely challenging year, the store managed to increase sales once again.
“We have increased textbook and merchandise sales from previous semesters. We are still down compared to four or five years ago, but I am excited to see sales moving in the right direction,” Clinton said. “For example, let’s say that we were expecting to do $100,000 in textbooks last year, then we ended up doing $115,000. It’s like that. Small changes, but they have a big impact. Merchandise is the same as well. I have pushed online sales, and I think that has helped us start to see the type of changes we want. With textbooks, sales are harder to predict. I could have a crystal ball that could tell me I am going to sell six copies and then I sell zero or nine.”
One thing Ms. Clinton worked hard to do in 2020 was get the majority of the store’s merchandise onto the website.
“Since COVID, I have offered students more free shipping through the website. That has helped us generate more sales. Also, I have worked to include more of our inventory on the site. Prior to 2020, I had around 50 percent of our clothing stock available on our eCommerce site. I have worked throughout the year to add 85 to 90 percent of the store’s products online. Students love that we have almost the entire stock available on our website now, including some of the 50 percent off merchandise. By making our clothing and merchandise available through the site, we have at least tripled our online sales. It has also increased the flow of what we have available on our site making it more dynamic,” Clinton said. “I have plans to add a clearance area to our site. That’s where everybody goes when they come into the store. They head right for the 50 percent off clearance rack. I plan to work on that in the upcoming year or so.”
When it comes to communicating with students, Ms. Clinton operates under the idea that less is more. She focuses on using the college’s communication channels, email and social media to get messages out.
“Through the school, I can send a message to all the faculty, staff and students. We can easily reach the entire campus community via text message, which is a great resource to have available. I don’t want to overuse it, so I limit the use by the store to our most important events throughout the year. That is my approach to all of our marketing. I try not to bombard students with information. My goal is to share something with students on social media or via email once every couple weeks,” Clinton said. “With Facebook, I keep store messages as short as possible. When the text is concise enough, your message can have a color block background, which increases visibility. That character limit is my goal for every post. Occasionally, the message has to be longer, but that is typically the length I strive for. For emails, there is obviously more text and more information than I share on social media, but I still try to be as concise as possible.”