Graduation is an exciting time for students and a great opportunity for college stores to connect with them one last time to establish a lasting relationship with future alumni. That’s why it’s so important to send them off in style and make them feel like a valued customer.
University of Pittsburgh – Greensburg Bookstore was able to accomplish this important endeavor with their annual Graduation Fair. This year, the event happened to fall around Mardi Gras, so they decided to host it on Fat Tuesday and build their theme around the holiday.
“University of Pittsburgh has the earliest commencement date in the entire country on April 26 and 27, so we wanted to schedule our Grad Fair early enough that students could receive their class ring in time for the big day,” explained Kathy Fennell, manager. “Our President, Dr. Smith, realized that fell near Mardi Gras and we decided that would be a perfect theme. Mardi Gras is such a fun holiday to begin with and Grad Fair always seems to bring in the happiest students, so it was just a great fit.”
As students entered the Grad Fair, staff members “beaded” them with strands of navy and gold Mardi Gras beads. In true New Orleans fashion, jazz music played throughout the day and bright decorations adorned the store’s many displays. Students also received an entry form for a raffle that gave them a chance to win great prizes.
“Anyone who bought regalia that day was entered to win one of three prizes: a class ring, a diploma frame or a graduation gift basket,” she added.
The most important part of the raffle, however, was the information it provided. The school asked for the students’ post-graduation email address to help build a list of alumni contacts.
“We received around 200 names and email addresses, which will allow us to market to these students even after they’ve left the University of Pittsburgh,” Fennell described.
As yet another sweet surprise, the store had their very own King cake, complete with a plastic baby inside. Whoever discovered the baby in their slice won free regalia!
“All the students were just so excited,” she said. “We had a great turnout and everyone had a lot of fun. In fact, we had 185 students purchase regalia out of the 300 who are eligible to graduate. That means more students purchased regalia this year than even processed last year, which is great!”
One perk the store didn’t expect was the affect the festivities had on the staff!
“These fun events really invigorate the staff,” she emphasized. “We all wore matching shirts and had on beads and we really just worked together. I think when you like your job and you enjoy what you’re doing, you become more invested; these festivities are one of the reasons we all love what we do.”
At the end of the day, the store had successfully increased sales, interacted with students and offered a memorable event to the senior class.
“I view it as a great success,” Fennell described. “If the calendar happens to fall this way again, I’d love to reuse the Mardi Gras theme. I personally love traditions and I think students do too. So, anywhere we can incorporate one effectively is a win-win situation.”