College stores depend on keeping a steady stream of student foot traffic throughout the year. Regular, well-planned bookstore events and sales can increase student and faculty engagement while positioning the store as a campus social hub. We recently sat down with Carissa Drake, bookstore coordinator at Riverland Community College, to discuss bookstore events and the best ways to reach the entire campus community.
Tell me about Riverland Community College and your college store?
We have three campuses in southern Minnesota that serve three different communities. We have about 3,000 students: high schoolers taking college classes, commuter students with nontraditional ages, and international athletes living in Austin, our only campus with housing. Our student body is a melting pot.
How many events do you plan for your store each year?
We mostly do events around major holidays. I wouldn’t say we do 12, but we try to do something once a month. Usually, we do an event right after rush — a back to school kind of sale. In October, we usually do a Halloween event with 31% off select merchandise. This is the third year we have done it. Initially, the sale started as just Halloween day, but then it became the whole week where we offer 31% off of select items. Making the event an entire week gives students and the campus community more opportunity to take advantage of the sale.
We also do a pre-Black Friday sale. We are only open Monday-Wednesday the week of Thanksgiving. So that Wednesday, we do a pre-Black Friday sale. Whole racks are marked $5, $10, $20, etc. For Christmas, we did 12 Days of Deals. Students know to expect something around the holidays. At the end of the year, we have a BOGO for $1 dollar sale before summer break to help make room for the new stuff. It has become such a yearly thing, that if I were to stop doing it, faculty and staff would get upset and the students would be ask, “Why don’t you have that sale?!” I don’t think I could take that one away.
We don’t always have the same sales, but there is always a sale of some kind at the same key times throughout the year.
Has the student response built each year?
Yes. The Halloween sale is our biggest sale for the fall semester. I think students like it a lot, and the timing is more focused on them. They don’t have to worry about financial aid or buying gifts yet. It’s a time where they can buy a sweatshirt for themselves and it’s okay.
How do your stores utilize social media?
We’ve been on Instagram for about two years. Our college Facebook page has 5,000 followers. Rather than start our own, we decided to just kind of bump onto theirs. An Instagram page was something we felt we could do because it is more visual. We post the clothing we just got in and other new items. We share our sales and event posters. We don’t have our own Snapchat. Again, we bump onto the college’s Snapchat when we have an event. With just me managing social media for the store on top of everything else I do, it’s best to really only focus on one.
What has been most successful at bringing people into your store?
We send out emails to all the current students on our campus. We will also move racks outside for like a sidewalk sale. For the 31% off sale, I put out some of the sale items to help call in the students. Right now, we have one camouflage piece that is $20 off this whole month for hunting season. We put it out so students just passing by can see it. It works pretty well. It’s a spur of the moment kind of thing.
I am the only marketing person for our store. The marketing plans from MBS are great. I love that all the past years are still available, and I can still use the graphics and posters. They help me a lot. If you look through our Instagram, I am sure you can find 80% of them.
This year, I saw the Foreword Online marketing plan for Friday the 13th. I thought that it would work for Halloween too. It worked out pretty nicely when I reached out to MBS to adjust the wording. I posted the flyers around campus, shared the images on Instagram and the day of, anyone who came into the store in costume, we took pictures. People wore more makeup than costumes this year. It was really fun. Our art students really get into it.