Magazine article University Business

Look before You Lease: Alternatives to Outsourcing Your Campus Store to a Corporate Retail Operator

Magazine article University Business

Look before You Lease: Alternatives to Outsourcing Your Campus Store to a Corporate Retail Operator

Article excerpt

According to a recent survey of auxiliary directors conducted by the National Association of College Stores, we know that the top reason (41 percent) for outsourcing the campus store is to eliminate operational headaches and simplify processes. Those are valid reasons.

Managing a retail operation is a complex business--and quite different from other higher education revenue operations such as enrollment, advancement, and even housing and dining. It is compounded by the equally complex business of sourcing and delivering course materials, with increasing emphasis on affordability and availability. This includes numerous format and delivery options that may not be well-known to faculty.

However, in the pursuit of streamlined processes and reduced risk, a significant question is often overlooked: Do you want a store that reflects the personality and values of your campus or do you want a cookie-cutter corporate showroom, focused on selling products and making a profit?

If you have handed off your campus store to a corporate retail operator or are contemplating it, and you haven't considered that fundamental question, maybe you should think again.

Your campus store is the window through which students, parents, alumni and visitors view your institution. It is a core aspect of their experience with your brand. They interact with the store as an extension of the institution.

Yet, it's understandable that, over the past decade or so, many institutions have opted to turn over their bookstore to a corporate retail operator that promises to take away all of these operational headaches--including the costs and risks associated with the store's inventory--and deliver a healthy check in return.

However, there are some things that these operators are not better at doing. Institutions that have relinquished their stores are experiencing unmet revenue and service expectations and unintended tradeoffs. Among them is a limited ability to meet the needs of students and faculty, reduced flexibility in sourcing course materials and products, and a store environment that isn't reflective of the institution and its mission. As a result, many institutions are choosing to reclaim operation of their campus stores. …

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