MBS Corporate Marketing Representative, Lilli Brooks, has exceptional knowledge of the collegiate retail industry. She travels the country, working with store managers and directors to help them improve efficiencies, sales and revenues. Because Lilli has observed the trend in marketplace sourcing close-up in a variety of contexts, she has in-depth understanding of its allure, its inconveniences and its dangers. We sat down to talk to her about how MBS’s new solution Simple Source will allow even the most time-strapped textbook managers to get into the sourcing game, while eliminating the dangers.
What are your observations about the collegiate retail industry with regards to sourcing?
At a glance, everyone loves sourcing books from the marketplace. If a store is currently sourcing books, they wish they could source more. If a store isn’t sourcing books, they wish they were. We see that sourcing is becoming an everyday practice for a lot of stores, but it often takes up too much time and effort for the amount of inventory they actually receive. We are hearing that what stores want is a way to make sourcing easier — more streamlined. Sourcing books from the marketplace is supposed to save stores on the average cost of a book, but when you look at all the variables in marketplace sourcing, this isn’t happening. There are too many factors that can hinder this process, including misleading costs to the store. We have developed an all-encompassing solution that will not only secure lower-priced books for stores, it will ensure they are legitimate to address this.
As sourcing continues to grow throughout our industry, we are seeing a surge in counterfeit textbooks being sold. It isn’t that counterfeit is new in the textbook sourcing arena, but the amount of counterfeit available has increased dramatically over the last few years. Stores should be very concerned about that because they can be held accountable for buying counterfeit books. Who are you sourcing your textbooks from? Are they selling you legitimate books? These are real concerns. Whether stores source a little or a lot, they need to be aware of who they are buying from.
Why are more stores turning to sourcing? What are its advantages?
Sourcing has become a way of life for many stores. It helps them stay strong in today’s climate of never-ending change and competitiveness. The primary goal with sourcing is to help lower a store’s average cost, which, in turn, leads to savings for students and, even more importantly, keeps the students buying from the store.
What are the difficulties involved with typical sourcing?
There are many difficulties stores face from sourcing online, but I think one of the biggest challenges is managing all of the orders individually. Stores usually pay with a credit card so now they are faced with multiple shipments and multiple invoices. It can easily become too much to manage, especially when you are sourcing one or two books at a time. Not only is it time consuming, but stores have to factor in the fees associated with various sellers on the marketplace. Does the book’s price reflect the landed cost of the book?
Another challenge for stores when sourcing is receiving the incorrect books, damaged books and counterfeit books. Counterfeit textbooks are a substantial problem in the educational marketplace. In many cases, you could buy a counterfeit book without realizing it. Ask yourself how much inventory is safely available on the marketplace. Stores should be sourcing from trusted partners, who are going to make sure they don’t end up with illegal books.
Describe MBS Simple Source.
Simple Source is a natural extension of our wholesale business — with the added bonus of marketplace sourced materials. It offers convenience and scale no one else can match. We are giving stores access to discount levels not previously available, while streamlining the labor involved with sourcing and protecting your store from marketplace risks.
Simple Source allows stores to set their own parameters for pricing and quantity at a chosen percentage. The books are then shipped to MBS where they are vetted for counterfeit and damages. Once they have passed our inspection, the books are held in a bin and hold until the desired ship date. The books are then shipped to the store — in one shipment. Stores receive just one invoice.
How does the program streamline the process of sourcing for stores?
Simple Source is fully integrated with the stores’ existing wantlist process. Stores can access our real-time progress from the interactive and intuitive landing page at any time, and even make changes as they see fit. Stores can also utilize multiple customization options so they can make as many, or few, adjustments as they wish during their chosen fulfillment time-frame.
Simple Source eliminates all the challenges that stores face sourcing on their own. They will no longer have to worry about receiving damaged or counterfeit copies, because MBS will do the vetting for them and ensure they are receiving quality, authentic inventory. Simple Source is housed within MBS Service Center, something most stores use on a daily basis, so it is already something the customer is accustomed to using.
Is there a fee for the MBS sourcing program?
There are no agreements, no paperwork and no additional fees to use Simple Source. You determine the number of books and the price you are willing to pay and from there. We source the books based on your parameters.
What do you like best about your job with MBS?
It’s going to sound very cliché, but it is the customers I like best. We have a very diverse customer base, who are always contributing unique perspectives that we incorporate into our solutions. The ability for MBS, as a company, to always stay on top and keep with our changing industry is what drives me every day. I think that has helped us evolve and separate ourselves from our competitors over the years. We take our customer needs seriously and there is never just one solution to fix a need or a desire. We continuously make strides to provide solutions for all stores.