In the 14 years that I have worked in the textbook industry, I have witnessed a lot of trends come and go. I have worked hand in hand with countless stores, helping implement the latest, most innovative college retail technology or strategies. With the mounting pressure for college bookstores to be both profitable and service-oriented, my college store friends must wear many hats and juggle an impossible number of responsibilities.
Deciding whether or not to source textbooks from the marketplace can be tricky. On one hand, it can help lower store acquisition costs. On the other hand, it comes with a large time commitment and a fair amount of risks. I have seen some stores absolutely kill it in the marketplace, but I have also seen other stores devote a lot of time into sourcing and get little return. Today I am going to share with you some of the top benefits associated with the marketplace and some of the cons.
What does the marketplace offer?
- Less expensive inventory — This is easily the biggest draw to sourcing. Stores have the potential to find some really great prices on textbooks that will help lower their total acquisition costs, which means they can pass more savings onto students and hopefully increase the percentage of students that choose to shop in the bookstore. This is the ideal scenario where the student, the store and the school win.
- Stores can find older, out-of-print titles — Finding out-of-print titles is frustrating, time-consuming and difficult. Sometimes, the marketplace can be a treasure trove for these hard-to-find titles.
What are the marketplace risks?
- Counterfeit textbooks — In recent years, this has become one of the top concerns with marketplace sourcing. Sales of counterfeit books harm students, educators, publishers and distributors. Purchasing counterfeit books from the marketplace is illegal and it increases stores’ risk. Even stores than put in the additional time and resources required to become an expert on counterfeit detection, cannot guarantee they will purchase legitimate materials.
- Time commitment — To really see a benefit from the marketplace hours and hours must be devoted to sourcing. Even then, your effort and time commitment may cost more than you end up saving.
- Unknown textbook quality — You don’t always know what you’re getting with the textbooks sourced from the marketplace. One of the troubles with ordering from unknown sellers who aren’t vetted in anyway is that you have no idea what to expect or if the books you receive will be in sellable condition.
- Unreliable shipping — In the same vein as above, unknown sellers can result in a lot of unnecessary problems for your store. Orders can take longer than expected to come in, meaning you may or may not get the books you ordered in time for rush.
- Multiple shipments and multiple invoices — With marketplace sourcing, you will get multiple shipments and multiple invoices. This complicates accounting and results in devoting more employee time to sourcing matters.
Stores that want the benefits of sourcing without the risks have had a lot of success with Simple Source. This new ordering tool from MBS saves time and money by helping bookstores efficiently source wholesale and marketplace inventory.
Stacy Elofir, director at Towson University Store said this about using Simple Source: “Compared to when we sourced by ourselves, the time savings with Simple Source is significant. We didn’t always have time to source the books ourselves, and we would miss out on getting the prices we could have. Simple Source helped us with that problem.”