Campus stores look beyond the traditional retail model to find ways to continuously drive customer traffic. As education, course materials and collegiate retail evolve, many stores seek new opportunities to bring in additional top line revenue and strengthen campus relationships. The UCLA Store maximizes its eCommerce and social media efforts, hosts a variety of events throughout the year, and creates new opportunities to better serve the campus community.
The UCLA Store fosters student and campus interest with pop-up shops and consignment events that increase merchandise variety. Through these events, the store’s reach is extended beyond its walls to better serve the campus.
“We do different types of things throughout the year. It keeps people browsing our store to see what’s new because the different pop-ups are only in the store for a limited amount of time,” UCLA Store Associate Director of Marketing & Computer Store Rick Crowe said. “For example, we will do a poster sale usually during the fall and winter quarter. In the fall students move into their dorms and want ways to decorate their space. We get a commission on that. We will also sell flowers during graduation and Valentine’s Day. We usually set that up outside of the store in the locations that make the most sense. Those sales typically do very well. It’s one of those things people don’t think about until they’re here.
“Another event that we have done for a long time is what we call our Bruin Bohemian Bazaar. It takes place on the patio outside of the store. It is typically held for two weeks every quarter but not during the summer,” Crowe said. “We bring in a variety of consignment vendors for the bazaar. Each brings their own merchandise like handmade jewelry, crafts, kettle corn, accessories, tapestries, succulents and more. We take a commission out of that. There’s also some food concessions that take part in the event that we get a commission on as well.”
Events like these bring in extra revenue without a large overhead investment. They also help the store keep an ever changing inventory that offers every student something that fits into their lifestyle.
“The bazaar is in a great location. Our patio is on the walk between residence halls and the general campus. It’s a high-traffic location which catches the students’ attention,” Crowe said. “The merchandise is a little more unique and personal, and the atmosphere is just what a bazaar should be. It’s very free flowing and inviting. The bazaar offers students the kind of stuff we don’t typically sell in the store. Because of that, the event helps bring people into the store and attracts student attention.”
The UCLA Store also partners with different companies to host in-store pop-up shops with the brands students love. Special pop-up events give the campus community the chance to see their favorite brands in the campus store.
“We explore and experiment with in-store pop-up shops as well. We will host tastings and various retail events. We try different things as the opportunity presents itself,” Crowe said. “We did a TOMS® trunk show last year, and we really tried to market the event. Mostly though, I think people were walking through and saw the event taking place. Then it became an opportunity for them to shop.”
In addition to large consignment sales and pop-up shops, the store supports the campus community by hosting various pop-ups around campus.
“Our trade book section, the Book Zone, hosts different book pop-ups throughout the year in conjunction with book signings on campus. The signings are usually held away from the store in different areas of campus, so that’s where we establish the pop-up locations,” Crowe said. “The Book Zone also supports the psychology conference that is hosted here every year. They set up a little conference bookshop in our union and sell psychology books for the duration of the conference. By going beyond the boundaries of our campus store, we can introduce ourselves to new customers and provide a needed service.”
For other college stores interested in establishing additional college store revenue streams, Mr. Crowe suggests that they bring something unique to campus and work to develop strong logistical and marketing support.
“Try to minimize your own inventory risk as much as possible, but also be willing to try something new. Get excited about the new things you offer and spread that excitement to the campus through your interactions and social media,” Crowe said. “Continue to look beyond the traditional retail model. Look at what your constituents want or need. If you can provide those solutions to students, staff, faculty, alumni and visitors, you will create a great foundation for the future.”