The other weekend, I stopped by the local mall for the first time in well over a year, and I noticed a few surprising changes. For one, it was past lunch hour, yet the food court was still packed - and not everyone was eating. Many were simply using the space as a place to hang out.
Another thing that surprised me was that the mall still had a Barnes & Noble, although it had very little foot traffic, especially for a weekend. Inside, half the store appeared to be your typical Barnes & Noble that I remembered - books and magazines; but the other half of the store was dedicated to toys, games, and gifts.
I realized that what’s happening at the mall as well as Barnes & Noble mirrors what’s happening with many campus bookstores at colleges and universities. Call me Captain Obvious, but it’s pretty apparent that both the mall and campus bookstore need to evolve in order to survive - becoming more of a multi-purpose destination to not just shop, but to meet, eat, and socialize.
Change is Coming
Taking a look at the flat or falling sales numbers of the campus bookstore and the ever-increasing cost of course materials makes it clear: if you haven’t thought about how to evolve the retail space that’s primarily been used for physical textbook sales, you run the risk of being seen as out-of-touch or worse, not doing everything you can to prepare your students for success. The future of your bookstore must look and operate differently than its current version if it’s going to provide value to the school as well as to the campus community.
So what might be causing the decline in campus bookstore traffic and textbook sales? And how are institutions innovating the bookstore model? Our own surveys and research tell a not-so-surprising story, which we’ve summarized in the infographic below:
Change is Hard
Of course, making change happen is easier said than done. Change always brings about a level of risk and uncertainty, especially when it comes to a well-established institution like a campus bookstore. What should go into the bookstore space if you close it or repurpose it? Will it even be used? What happens to the revenue that was generated from the textbook sales? Where will you sell spiritwear or sundries? How will faculty and students respond to these changes? These are just a few of the questions that come up when attempting to tackle the problem, and something that has kept many universities unsure of the next steps.
Ultimately, this inaction only ensures students shop elsewhere for materials and faculty become frustrated by the limitations of a physical bookstore in an age of eBooks and interactive courseware. The lack of action can eventually grow into a recruiting challenge for universities vying for a new generation of digital natives who have only purchased books online (or who have only read eBooks!).
However, for university administrators who recognize the shift in student and faculty expectations, the evolution in course material formats, and the need to tie cost-effective course material usage to student success, there are solutions that universities across the US are leveraging.
Are you curious how your campus bookstore can tackle declining textbook sales? You can learn more about the possible solutions in our eGuide, Three Ways to Tackle Declining Textbook Sales.