Although Barnes & Noble College stores have a distinctly academic mission, it would be a mistake to think they exist in scholarly isolation, safely hidden behind the sanctity of campus walls. Store and Regional Managers devote their energies to ensuring their stores — wherever they might be located — are constantly reaching out to not only the colleges and universities they serve, but also to the wider community beyond. At the Barnes & Noble at Tidewater Community College (TCC), that sense of outreach is particularly evident, but should you be thinking of bravely venturing into the store this week, you may encounter a few Halloween surprises.
The Barnes & Noble at Tidewater Community College is a distinctive store at any time of the year. Although an integral part of college life, the first surprise might be that the store itself is located in a mall, as part of Norfolk’s 140-store MacArthur Center. Alongside such well-known retailers as Nordstrom, Dillard’s, Abercrombie & Fitch and Williams-Sonoma, the location is just one reason why the store is so focused on outreach activities, and Halloween gives them plenty of opportunity to do that.
“It’s a tradition here that during the week of Halloween we have the kids come in costume, and we organize a trick or treat around the store,” explains Community Relations Manager, Ashley Hicks. “A lot of parents in the Norfolk area are looking for a place where younger children can trick or treat, and as our renovations this summer included a brand new children’s department, we wanted to expand on that this year,” she adds.
To get the word out, Hicks distributed over five hundred fliers and utilized all the store’s social media channels to bring in young princesses, wizards, witches and ghouls. It’s just one of the ways the store tried to distinguish itself from the neighboring retailers, and with good reason. As a retail event, Halloween is likely to generate some $7.4 billion in sales, up from last year’s $6.9 billion, according to the National Retailers Federation (NRF), for purchases on everything from pumpkin-carving kits to costumes for pets.
At many Barnes & Noble College stores around the country, special Halloween sales are being promoted through a special ‘Trick then Treat’ sweepstakes, and by offering special pricing on candy or seasonal food items. At Tidewater, the store has seen a growing demand from their outreach programs, and particularly from the themed party events. “Our story-time parties just keep growing every month, and we’re constantly coming up with ideas for new themes,” Hicks explains.
This summer, to coincide with Harry Potter’s birthday, the store held a party, featuring character costumes and a host of different stations around the store such as a Honeydew candy store and a wizard photo booth, along with face painting and crafts which attracted well over a hundred participants. Earlier this month, the store also hosted a Star Wars Reads Day, complete with several characters from the series, and next month a The Hunger Games: Mockingjay party is being planned to coincide with the film’s release.
While Halloween might represent a significant revenue holiday for retailers, Hicks sees her role at the bookstore as more than simply revenue generation. “Our story-time events have become so well established, I’ve seen some of our young children grow up to become preschoolers,” she says. “We want to let parents, students and the community know we’re here, and that we’re regularly staging these kinds of fun events,” she adds. “When they come into the store for story-time, we’re hoping they’ll stay, enjoy our exceptional customer service and then want to come back.” Which is anything but a scary thought for Halloween.