College students are savvy shoppers. They’re buying food at campus bookstores in increasing numbers not only because of the convenience factor, but also because of the foods’ significantly improved quality and taste. There’s a lot of competition in the world of convenience, and the campus bookstore is increasingly attracting value-oriented customers.
It’s a similar story at The College at Brockport (SUNY), where, without the benefit of a sit-down café, and surrounded by other food outlets, convenience sales at the campus bookstore are up nearly 40 percent year-to-date. “While we have amazing support from our home office, we’re also empowered locally to respond to the needs and preferences of this particular campus,” Brockport’s College Bookstore Manager Chris Sackett, points out. That kind of local decision making also enables Sackett to support Assistant Manager Sucie Pedraza in her buying choices and operations, including the management of her student employees.
Managed by Barnes & Noble College since 1985, the bookstore’s careful attention to local preferences and connecting with the campus has not gone unnoticed by the College. “I stop by the bookstore weekly and see the outreach to our students, faculty, staff and alumni,” says John Halstead, PhD, President, The College at Brockport. “Chris is doing remarkably well in all of those areas. We’re just very pleased that he is currently our bookstore manager — and I hope he continues to be for years to come.”
Sackett also believes another reason for the bookstore’s success comes from continually monitoring and keeping the product offerings fresh and inviting, as well as offering any item close to expiration at half price. “It means we have the opportunity to offer different products, and that we’re consistently building a reputation for freshness that our customers look for,” he says.
To maintain that freshness, ordering stock has become another key to the success of the bookstore. “We’re constantly placing orders, offering our customers a wide selection of convenience foods — always in stock and always fresh.”
As a public state college, price can be another important driver for Brockport students, and Pedraza has successfully found items to suit the flavor profile of her students at lower price points. “We want them to be able to come into the store and not have to spend a lot of money,” Sackett says, adding that the same focus on value and wide choice of offerings has also extended to another area of the convenience offerings. “Health and Beauty Care has been a logical extension to our convenience business,” he says, “and we want to make sure that we can offer that same value to customers who can come in for a simple item like Q-tips, and know we’ll always have them in stock.”
In the competitive world of campus food service, Sackett is quick to acknowledge his customers have options, and his team seeks to provide them with a really personalized experience. “We always want our customers to feel like they are our number one priority, and even if we see the same customers come in every day, for the same candy bar or the same drink, we want to make sure that they’re greeted every time — and that they always have a positive experience visiting our store — for the whole time they’re on our campus.”