Kids playing outside, cookouts, and spending time with friends and family: one of the best parts of summer is when communities come together. The North Dakota State Bookstore taps into that summertime spirit and inspires the entire campus community with a great college campus event idea — a summer yard sale.
Summers on college campuses can be slow. Many students have gone home, faculty and staff are taking summer vacations and, in general, fewer people are on campus. That means fewer customers come into the store and sales naturally slump. However, the NDSU Bookstore developed a plan to change that.
The NDSU Bookstore summer yard sale
A few years ago, the NDSU Bookstore began hosting a summer yard sale event. The goal was to help clear older merchandise to make room for new fall inventory.
“Considering that it’s summer, the yard sale is a pretty busy event,” NDSU Bookstore Apparel Buyer Mary Sivertson said. “It gets everybody out of their offices, and it’s a good way for us to clean out any older merchandise from the previous school year to make room for all the new, back-to-school merchandise.”
The store hosts the yard sale event twice over the summer, once in June and once in July. Both events run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.
“It’s a really fun event, especially if the weather is really nice. The first year that we did it, it was a beautiful day. We partner with NDSU dining services, and that really helps bring everyone out of their offices for lunch. At our most recent sale, we partnered with NDSU Meats, and they grilled burgers and brats,” Sivertson said. “People can have lunch while they look for great deals. We host the event in an area outside of our store. There are tables and chairs and benches where people can sit outside to eat lunch. We found that we’re busy in the morning, but our peak sale hours are over lunch when everyone comes out and has time to shop. It’s a lot of fun to see everybody on campus in the summer.”
Strategic event planning helps increase foot traffic and generate revenue
Advertising beyond the campus boundaries helps bring in the Fargo, North Dakota, community. Also, strategic event planning ensures that the yard sale is held when the campus has an ample supply of visitors: summer welcome.
“Another thing that we started doing is advertising the sale on University Avenue so people can see the signs as they are driving by campus. The signs say NDSU Bookstore yard sale. It helps draw people from the public onto campus because they want to check out the event,” Sivertson said. “We also schedule these events when we have quite a few visitors on campus. The event is very popular outside, and it brings a lot of the visitors into the store as well. Part of its success is getting customers to shop in both areas.”
Sivertson keeps yard sale pricing in mind while setting up the event. She also strives to create a fun and inviting atmosphere where people can find terrific deals.
“We really take a good look at older merchandise and consider marking down clothing styles with broken six runs if we are not reordering that particular style. We find the things that really need to go before new inventory arrives for football and back to school. Those items are then earmarked for the yard sale,” Sivertson said. “Customers expect really good deals, and that’s what we give them. The store can really move some inventory.”
Create a college campus yard sale event
If you are interested in planning a garage, yard or rummage sale for your store, Sivertson suggests that you make a plan.
“We pick the date in advance that makes the most sense and hopefully gets us some additional customers. We also have a sign-up sheet for who’s going to work the event. If it’s a hot day, we don’t want our same students outside all day. We rotate people out every two hours so there is a different student employee cashier. That way if it is hot, they’re not out there for an extended period of time,” Sivertson said. “We also plan for an hour of set up time to make sure we have ample time to get our offsite mobile POS set up and everything looks nice. And finally, we think ahead to when we have to take the event down at the end of the day. Who is going to be available to help pack up everything and how you going to do that efficiently? All of that is arranged ahead of the event to make sure it goes smoothly.”
Most importantly though, the event brings more customers into the store and moves unwanted inventory before the new year begins.
“Summer can be kind of a slow time, but it doesn’t have to be,” Sivertson said. “I think it would be a great event for a bookstore of any size. You don’t know if it would work on your campus until you try. If you have good weather, partner with dining services and create a fun event, it might just make a world of difference.”