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Inside Look: Campus Retail

Colleges and universities providing students’ retail needs right on campus
University Business, September 2014
  • Customers at Binghamton University’s Marketplace can also see the fresh ingredients used in the open-kitchen environment.  A dozen types of food—including everything from burgers to various ethnic dishes—are served in The Marketplace, which also has a Starbucks. Architects: Bearsch Compeau Knudson Architects and Engineers (Binghamton, N.Y.), Connor Architecture (Lexington, Mass.)
  • Community gathering place: The State University of New York’s Binghamton University spent $8 million expanding a 15,000-square-foot food service area called The Marketplace. It has become a gathering spot for students, faculty and staff. There’s a variety of seating, including a lounge area with a two-sided fireplace that can be seen from outside the building.
  • Business opportunities: Showing its entrepreneurial spirit, Long Island University in New York opened a host of student-run businesses in 2013 to provide real-world business experience. These trendy and modern establishments, located in LIU’s Hillwood Commons, include a clothing boutique called The Student Body, a nonalcoholic sports lounge called The End Zone, and The Treat Shoppe, which sells products and snacks from local vendors. One example of how the stores operate: The Student Body’s managers, sales
  • Technology needs: The $2.3 million renovation of the bookstore at Baylor University in Texas provided space for an Apple Authorized Campus Store and a computer department. The latter has a large selection of computers with pricing specific to the institution.
  • The 16,000-square-foot bookstore at Baylor University in Texas was completely renovated in 2006, with new carpeting, light fixtures, clothing fixtures and a foyer, among other enhancements. Designer: Follett Higher Education Group
  • Beyond the books: The 60,000-square-foot bookstore at the University of Pennsylvania was renovated last year to better meet campus needs. With the decline of CDs, DVDs and books, officials saw an opportunity to provide a range of new services.
  • University of Pennsylvania students and faculty can now get their IDs, have passport photos taken, buy stamps, use notary services, buy computers and mobile devices, and get tech support. Event spaces, which will be used as meeting rooms or for guest speakers, were enhanced with an amplified Wi-Fi signal and USB ports. The project’s approximately $1 million price tag was shared by the bookstore and its new “tenants”—the PennCard ID Center and the computer store. Designer: Barnes & Noble College
  • Market-style food offerings: The Andrew Commons at Lawrence University in Wisconsin is a market-style retail space that opens to limestone terraces along the Fox River. Specialty food stations operate throughout the day and a path along the river connects to the city of Appleton’s large trail network. The $34 million space, open since 2009, also includes a coffee shop, a university gift store and a convenience store. The same stone floors and wood panelling runs throughout the commons, which also has expans
  • Engagement with prospects: An off-campus welcome center located in Charleston brings the University of South Carolina to the community. Although less than 1,000 square feet, Carolina on King aims to engage prospective students, parents, alumni and fans. Opened in August 2012—at a cost of $225,000 and in partnership with Barnes & Noble College—the center sells high-end merchandise such as authentic Gamecock fan apparel and gift items. The store’s walls showcase university athletics photos and display other b
  •  Rural campus ‘must-haves’: In Virginia, Ferrum College owns and operates the country streetscape-style Ferrum Mercantile, which opened in May 2014 at a cost of $800,000. Double French doors divide The Mercantile’s general store from the cafe, so the shops can be closed when food is served late.
  • Ferrum Mercantile’s retail section offers a country/general store ambiance with baked goods and snacks, Starbucks coffee and local arts and crafts. The Mountain Creek Café features a Papa John’s Pizza franchise, a Metro Deli and gourmet ice cream from a local creamery. Architect: Ferrum College; External signage: Indigo Signs (Rocky Mount, Va.)

Whether it’s purchasing textbooks every semester or meeting daily needs such as meals, snacks or health and beauty aids, students who find the right dining and retail stores on campus have a better college experience.

Many higher ed institutions are adding shops and brand-name eateries, as well as renovating bookstores to keep up with current technology trends.

Those trends include selling more devices, having a retail chain on campus and adding technology repair areas similar to Apple’s Genius Bar, says Jeff Pavic, vice president for channel development for the National Association of College Stores.

“Lots of schools are looking to improve retention rates by bringing the products students need to campus. It brings them a sense of comfort and convenience,” Pavic says. “Overall, it’s key to pay attention to your demographics and find items and brands that resonate with your campus.”

While larger colleges and universities often have a lot more space for retail—even roomy department stores—smaller schools can transform a single bookstore or retail operation into more of an academic support center, Pavic says.

To get more traffic, a number of campus stores have added services like print shops and even dry cleaning, he says. Mini pop-up stores that offer seasonal items, such as dorm supplies in the fall and formal interview clothes in the spring, have also become popular. With the demand for textbooks on the decline, campus bookstores have also transformed space into lounge areas, cafes and meeting rooms, Pavic adds.

The goal for any retail space is to support the academic mission of the institution while also serving its students. The following examples exemplify these trends.