Since college stores have been in the business of providing textbooks to students for many decades, it shouldn’t come as a surprise that affordable course materials heads the list of the seven top issues facing the college store industry right now.
NACS member-volunteers spent months identifying all the issues impacting stores and then condensing and winnowing the list to the seven most critical challenges. Stores’ efforts to help ensure all students have affordable access to course materials on the first day of class emerged as No. 1.
Stores have built relationships with publishers and distributors to help faculty understand the available options for materials, including customized versions and open-source materials. As more course materials are offered in digital formats (sometimes solely in digital), it’s often stores that end up assisting students in figuring out how to access their electronic assignments. Because students still strongly prefer to study from paper—digital products don’t yet offer the same ease of use—campus stores have stepped up to furnish hard-copy options for digital or online materials and to seek out more sources of lower-cost used books to stock.
While some students believe they can achieve good grades without textbooks, research shows that those who regularly read their assignments are more likely to attain better grades and persist to graduation. That starts with making sure students aren’t deterred by the price of materials.
However, the issue of affordable course materials has another side for campus stores: conflicting goals. While most higher education institutions are trying to hold down costs for students, including textbooks, they also expect their campus stores to generate more revenue from sales.
The six other issues on the top-seven list are:
2. The student experience: providing goods and services to enhance students’ campus experience and boost their connection to the institution.
3. The retail experience: furnishing strong customer service and extending the school’s brand.
4. Campus collaboration and communication: working closely with other campus entities to support the institution’s mission.
5. Retail technologies: making good use of technology to improve operations, service, and communications.
6. Talent development: strengthening the store’s performance by investing in its employees.
7. Business stewardship and strategy: being aware of trends and issues and readying a strategy for response.