Johnson County Community College Bookstore’s Kristine Herman has a deep understanding of the college store industry. She started working for JCCC in the warehouse at age 20. Since then, she’s worked her way up to the role of Assistant Manager. She said her background helps her understand how different parts of the business affect the whole.
“It gives me a different perspective. I can get into the weeds with warehouse employees if I need to get into the weeds,” said Ms. Herman.
That perspective has served JCCC bookstore well. Since Ms. Herman took on her leadership role, she and her associates have raised the bookstore’s campus profile significantly. They have garnered community trust with outreach and increased low-cost course material offerings to students with programs like Publisher Consignment Rental.
They have also guided the bookstore through the transition to a new location and begun diversifying general merchandise offerings. The goal: prepare for a potential decline in course material revenue as the industry moves toward digital and inclusive access.
“Our biggest challenge is from a merchandise side, keeping sales up, because we’re not a big four-year school. We also don’t have a football team,” Ms. Herman said. “But we have a brand-new store. It looks great, so we want to increase our merchandise sales. Our textbook sales have been pretty steady. We haven’t seen too much of a decline, but we expect we will as we do more inclusive access. We want to increase and diversify our merchandise so that we’re providing the students with what they want and need.”
Business intelligence for the future
Ms. Herman said the MBS technology and wholesale partnership helped JCCC bookstore meet challenges and discover opportunities throughout this process. She uses analytics from the MBS retail management system, Arc to make critical decisions about inventory.
“Arc is great. There are some really good features in Arc. Especially now in my role, I like the enhancements on the ISBN level, with inventory tracking, and transaction tracking. On the merchandise side, the sales reports, inventory, that kind of thing. I utilize the pre-created reports that come with Arc to analyze sales and inventory trends. I like that you can customize them for the information you need.”
Ms. Herman said her dedicated MBS service team helps her make the most of the system. She contacts her service representative regularly with questions about everything from sales reporting to the Arc course material application. She said MBS responds to every request swiftly with kindness, authenticity and expertise.
“Our customer service rep is really great. She’s always available. If I email her, she usually emails back within the hour. She will follow up on things that I have forgotten about. She’s really great, very personable and human. I always feel like I can ask her the dumbest questions imaginable and she’ll say, ‘There’s no dumb questions, Kristine.’ She’s very patient and kind.”
Outreach and offerings that win community loyalty
When Ms. Herman first took on her role as Assistant Manager, she and the store manager brought focus to building community trust. They launched a faculty outreach campaign and began exploring ways to save students more money on course materials.
“We did a lot of bridge-building when we first came on and a lot of reaching out and making sure a lot of the departments knew that we were there for the students and there for them,” Ms. Herman said.
The relationship with MBS wholesale helped JCCC acquire a renewed reputation as a service to students and faculty. The store’s wholesale representative introduced them to MBS programs that can lower student costs.
“Our wholesale rep is great. He has been helping us with SimpleSource and the Publisher Consignment Rental program,” she said.
SimpleSource is the MBS ordering tool that helps stores get more inventory at a lower average cost. The Publisher Consignment Rental Program simplifies management of cost-saving publisher rentals. She said offering publisher consignments rentals would be much more complex and time-consuming without MBS.
“It absolutely makes things easier, because we can get all the books from MBS. We only have to deal with one vendor. Plus, MBS has access to our system, so we don’t have to put together any reports.”
JCCC Bookstore’s commitment to campus outreach and increased student service has transformed the bookstore’s reputation. Ms. Herman said other college stores hoping to increase campus relevance could take a similar approach.
“You’ve got to reach out. But you’ve got to follow up, too. You can’t just make empty promises,” said Ms. Herman. “Once you do, word of mouth travels very fast. With us, the community started seeing a nicer, more friendly bookstore, more willing to work with the students and the faculty and more willing to help out the students. In this day and age, it’s really nice to know you’re an essential part of the campus community.”