Case Study: Technology and Store Makeovers Increase Sales and Satisfaction at Tri-C Bookstores

July 25, 2011

Cuyahoga Community College (Tri-C) is Ohio’s oldest and largest multi-campus community college. With three campuses located in the greater Cleveland area, Tri-C has a rich tradition of providing high quality, affordable educational programs and serves 55,000 students, annually.

To best meet the needs of its students, the college operates a bookstore on each of its three campuses. Two years ago, the college’s administration realized that although the stores were seeing good results, they could still be better. That’s when Tri-C decided to bring in a retailing expert to help take their stores to the next level and they turned to Barnes & Noble College for assistance.

New IT Systems Mean Faster Sales

Barnes & Noble’s first undertaking was to overhaul the bookstores’ IT systems, which included installing its electronic inventory and point-of-sale system. This technology provides one of the fastest checkout processes of any college retailer and fully integrates with the school’s financial aid and campus debit card system. These changes had a huge impact on the bookstores’ customers, because a large percentage of Tri-C’s students receive financial aid.

As part of the move to a more sophisticated IT infrastructure, Barnes & Noble also developed a fully functioning website to support the bookstores. The website ties into Barnes & Noble’s Registration Integration (RI) system, which allows students to reserve and order textbooks as soon as they register for a course online. Today, the online bookstore represents 32 percent of the stores’ total business.

Extreme Makeover in One Weekend!

But the real heavy lifting happened one month later, when Barnes & Noble gave all three stores an extreme makeover – in just one weekend. Barnes & Noble employees from around the region came together and removed all of the stores’ merchandise, remodeled the stores to give them a more modern look, and replaced the entire inventory. First thing on Monday morning, all three stores  were up and running once again.

“The amazing thing is that all of this work was done in one weekend, without any interruption of service to our students,” said Chris Moir, executive director of campus services and retail operations at Tri-C. “The fact that Barnes & Noble was able to come in and make these immense improvements in such a short period speaks volumes of their retail and university expertise.”

In the year following the drastic changes to Tri-C’s bookstores, the school saw its sales increase by 30 percent, in part because of the student insight Barnes & Noble used in its selection of general merchandise for the stores. In the past (in addition to textbooks) Tri-C’s bookstores were stocked with an array of retail items selected based on “gut feelings.”  However, these item didn’t always resonate with students. Now, Tri-C takes a more strategic approach to selecting retail merchandise for its bookstores.

This June marked the two-year anniversary of Barnes & Noble and Tri-C’s partnership, and the bookstores continue to serve as retail destinations for each campus. Indeed, Barnes & Noble’s dedication to serving the needs of higher education has enabled Tri-C to provide a more customer-focused environment for its students.

“I rely on Barnes & Noble to ensure that the day-to-day management of Tri-C’s bookstores runs smoothly,” said Moir. “They are so much more than a vendor – they are a trusted business partner.”

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