College Stores Thrive: Retail Sales Fall Nationwide-But College Store Sales Are Up. (Stats Watch)

By Rivard, Nicole | University Business, February 2002 | Go to article overview

College Stores Thrive: Retail Sales Fall Nationwide-But College Store Sales Are Up. (Stats Watch)


Rivard, Nicole, University Business


IN A NATIONAL RETAIL LANDSCAPE DOMINATED BY lagging sales and profit-eroding prices, college stores provided a bright spot this past fall A recent survey of 238 college stores released by the National Association of College Stores (www.nacs.org), indicated that more than 83 percent of college stores experienced increased sales compared to fall 2000, with nearly 60 percent of the stores reporting an increase of 5 percent or more. Following September 11, the sale of comfort items such as stuffed animals, candles/incense, music-related items, and patriotic goods contributed to the overall sales growth, even though about half the stores reported the gifts/card category experienced depressed sales compared to last year.

Top performers. Overall, top-performing categories were: textbooks, apparel, and student supplies. In apparel, hot items included hooded sweatshirts, and shorts with school names printed across the rear. In softgoods, backpacks--and especially those with wheels--emerged as top setters. And several stores mentioned study guides--in particular the Bar Charts brand (www.barcharts.com)--as strong sellers.

Disappointing technology sales. Nearly two-thirds of college stores anticipate increased sales this spring, compared to last year. Still, the remaining third expect decreased spring sales due to the slump in technology product sales that was only deepened by the September 11 tragedies; most college stores are currently reporting technology-related sales down 15 to 30 percent. John Bibo, vice president of Merchandise and Marketing at NASCORP (a division of NACS), points out that students simply aren't seeing any innovative items that might boost that business.

"In college stores right now, there is conservatism in the product levels that are being stocked. And among the reseller community, there is a tack of interest in stocking `unproven' products--those products just coming to market or those that are especially price-volatile. September 11 may be behind this trend, but it's a trend we're watching," says Bibo. Students are also being conservative, he says: they're holding onto equipment longer, and not upgrading hardware or accessories unless absolutely necessary. Bright spots for spring? …

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