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What a Bookstore Manager Wanted to Know on Day 1

Posted by Jason Smallheer on 1/27/17 5:30 AM
Topics: college retail, retail management, college stores

You’re a college bookstore manager. A superhero. A rare breed. You’re a leader and a motivator. You make a retail environment run like a well-oiled machine.  Every day you engage customers, hire and train employees, decide which items to carry, manage money, deal with sales calls, and now take on the challenges of posting to Facebook, Tweeting and taking on the “other duties as assigned.” 

Bookstores are like fingerprints, no two alike; some run by large companies, others independent and all need a special manager. Google offers almost 800 million websites on how to be a manager. The ad for a bookstore manager speaks to administrative tasks, retail services and managing student workers.

Wanted: Bookstore Manager - duties and responsibilities:

  1. Manages the operation of a store unit
  2. Supervises personnel
  3. Oversees and coordinates the payment of invoices
  4. Prepares and administers the bookstore budget
  5. Works with faculty and vendors to acquire and assure availability of texts and class supplies
  6. Oversees maintenance of stock, displays, signs and inventory
  7. Develops and implements systems and processes
  8. Represents the organization at various community business meetings
  9. Manages the operation of auxiliary services such as vending machines
  10. Miscellaneous job-related duties as assigned.

Kudos to you bookstore manager. You’ve defied science. You’ve can cram 36 hours of work into a 24 hour day with no sleep or food. But what do you tell someone who is applying for the job mentioned above? The college retail landscape is changing. What do you wish you knew the first day on the job?

Words from the field

Jason Lorgan, executive director of campus recreation Memorial Union at UC Davis, said he wishes he knew more about the financial side of the business. Having started his career in a leased store and now leading an independent store, the daily financial goals were different.

“In a leased store, the most important goal is the bottom line,” he said. “In an independent store, profit is important, but supporting the campus mission with programs and services is of higher importance in many cases.”

There are wrinkles outside of answering for the financials such as relationships, customer needs and solving problems. Problem-solving is more than giving people the day off and making the schedule work; it’s being able to provide a service for the student with a particular need. Lorgan said his relationships with vendors and business connections helps him offer solutions to students with challenges.

“If remedial education is a problem impeding a four-year graduation, I can suggest students take an online course offered by a publisher,” he said. “This could increase the number of students not having to take remedial courses.”

Janet Huebner, The Wartburg Store manager and textbooks services director, said there is more to college retail than meets the eye but has enjoyed the helpful people in her industry. For someone who is answering the ad for the bookstore manager, she recommends strong relationships.

“Build relationships with faculty and staff,” she said. “Be patient with yourself. It takes at least one academic calendar year to understand what needs to occur.”

Lorgan said knowing the goals of the university leadership can help a new manager start on the right foot.

“If they have a wellness goal, you can speak to financial wellness through your affordability programs,” he said. “Independent stores need to follow the mission of their campus. It is our number one differential advantage.”

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