There is no doubt that mask wearing has become a new normal over the past year. With the emergence of a new accessory that everyone required to wear, it makes sense for campus stores to offer them to customers. However, Grand Valley State University (GVSU) Store decided to take a slightly different route. The store has opted to donate a portion of its mask sales to the campus Student Support Fund, helping student who have been affected by the pandemic.
Recently, we sat down with GVSU Laker Store Manager of Operations, Apparel, Buying/Merchandising Nicole Greiner to hear more about how their program works.
How is your store helping to support students on your campus?
This summer when things were starting to reopen and it became apparent that masks and PPE were going to be a new way of life around here, we decided to start carrying masks in the store. We wanted to support students, customers, and anyone who came into the store by having some different mask options that showed school pride. We reached out to a couple vendors to figure out styles that would best fit the masses and at a price point that we thought our customers would really like.
We decided that we didn’t want to approach this as a way to make money. Instead, we wanted it to be another service to our community: the students, faculty and staff. From each mask or hand sanitizer sale, we give a percentage back to the student relief fund. That gives us a great way to support campus initiatives and the students who have been affected by the pandemic.
We offer four different styles and also the Grand Valley State University mask that campus supplied to every student and every staff member. That came about because we had a lot of people from the community who came in looking for that mask. The campus ended up gifting us some of those masks, and we have been able to distribute them to the community through the store and our online channels. We sell the campus masks for $6, and $5 goes right into that fund. We just keep a dollar to help support our costs.
I have actually done the numbers. Since August, we have contributed $5,052 toward the fund! It’s really awesome to be able to do that. It’s one small thing that we can do to help.
What type of masks are selling best?
We try to keep it pretty basic to appeal to the masses. One has a repeated GV throughout the mask. The other one is a little more fun. It’s a royal blue tie dye — tie dye print is on trend at the moment. You see a lot in mass market. We have one of the gator masks. They are a little more comfortable fit for some
people, and I see them with people working out a lot. We did a promotion a few weeks ago and are actually out of those right now. Then, we have just a basic black mask with a GV on it.
Other than that, we have the Grand Valley State University mask. A lot of people like that because it has a lanyard on it. You can actually still have it around your neck when you take it off versus putting it down on another surface. I really love that one. It’s less contact and it’s been really popular.
All of the masks are just really good, comfortable fit. Very soft. I wore mine all day at least once a week since this started, and my masks are still going strong. We are evaluating if we are going to do another style or two for the spring semester. It’s always a wait and see what the normal will be, but because we have had some success with what we have had so far, it might be nice to add a couple new styles. All of our masks retail for $7 except for the one Grand Valley supplied which is $6. We want everyone to have one if that’s something that they desire.
What is the store doing to prepare for the spring term?
As I said, we are potentially bringing in another mask design or two. We also did a promotion through the fall semester called $10 Tuesday. One of those Tuesdays, we did two for $10 on masks. For spring we are thinking about doing a hand sanitizer and mask combo for $10 as well. We really try to find different ways to catch people’s attention or get them a deal while helping keep everyone on campus healthy.
What has the community response been?
It’s been very positive. Originally, we didn’t have the Grand Valley mask because they were distributed to everybody free of cost. The school wanted to make sure everybody had access to one. However, we had so many community members coming or the partner of someone who worked on campus saying, “hey I really want one of those, too.” We reached out to Facilities, the department that orders and distributes those masks, to see if they could give us a couple cases to sell in the store.
We are having a lot of people grab masks for the holidays as a stocking stuffer. That’s just an easy extra add on that shows community pride, school spirit and protects the people around you. I did that for my family, too. We have worn our masks so long. It is nice to get a little freshness on them.
Do you market the masks?
We try to find different ways to work the masks that we sell into our ads, so people will know that they get them at the store. We do all of our own photography for social media and advertisements, so it is good to include them. There are a lot of different places producing Grand Valley masks. We want people to also know where they can get them here on campus.
What advice would you give to another college store interested in starting a similar program?
I would say to keep it simple. I know that there are a lot of masks out there that can retail for a lot more. That’s fine if you feel like there’s a need or a niche. But I think keeping it simple and making sure you are able to get it in the hands of anyone and everyone that wants one is important. I wouldn’t want the price to deter somebody from buying one. This is a great way to impact your campus community and give back.