The product selection shoppers see in their campus Barnes & Noble College store often comes as a result of months of planning to find the right mix of merchandise that is appealing, relevant and can be offered at a good price point for student budgets. There are few better examples of that thinking than the highly successful Barnes & Noble College Trend Table program. Based around a central theme, the Trend Table serves as a focal point in the store for showcasing a unique selection of products with a particularly strong student connection – and the latest in the series is likely to be the most successful yet. Made in America will debut in January 2013, and although the theme is familiar, this Trend Table will offer a decidedly fresh take on the patriotic theme.
“We had been drawn for some time to the idea of developing a Trend Table around American-sourced products,” explains Barnes & Noble College Director of Merchandise, Lisa Mazzio. “And it matched with our trend research, which confirmed this was a theme our students would identify with strongly.” As with previous Trend Tables, merchandise for the Made in America program would not only have to be manufactured in the U.S.A., but also include a strong narrative behind each of the products showcased such as green or sustainable themes, or job generation for U.S. workers.
The major gift shows in New York and Atlanta provided a wealth of original choices for the Trend Table, but the more difficult task was pulling together the various products as a collection. “There’s such a wide variety of items, and they all are so unique,” Mazzio explains, describing a collection which spans jewelry to lip balms and lotions. Whitney Howard Designs, a boutique jewelry company from Calabasas, California, produces a range of earth-friendly rings, bracelets and pendants created from recycled materials to promote joy, love and healing, while Out of Print celebrates the world’s great literature through fashion t-shirts and totes, including a Great Gatsby collection to coincide with the winter release of the motion picture remake.
“These are items that students can really use,” says Mazzio, “But they are also products that give back.” As an example, for each product sold, Out of Print will donate one book to a community in need. Liberty Bottleworks from Yakima, Washington, make water bottles produced entirely from recycled materials with a strong stewardship ethos, while Mad Gab’s, a creator of natural beauty products, is committed to producing without waste and creating new job opportunities within their Maine community.
Products from the Made in America trend table will debut in stores as students return to campus after winter break. For Mazzio and her team, however, the search continues to create new showcasing opportunities through the Trend Table program and provide even more good reasons for students to visit their Barnes & Noble College campus store. “It’s exciting for us to introduce these programs to our students,” she says, and quotes a slogan featured by one of her suppliers: “We’re carrying a t-shirt with the acronym YOLO – ‘you only live once’ design, and that’s a philosophy we really want to reflect with these programs – to introduce our demographic to the best and widest selection of products they can relate to and also feel good about supporting.”