Own the Expertise: 5 manageable ways to own course material knowledge

By Mark Palmore, Managing Director, Campus Advisory Services and Denise Walsh, Strategic Campus Advisor, Campus Advisory Services

This is the final article in our four-part series about the benefits of the independent bookstore. Read the first three articles here and continue reading below to learn about how independent bookstores can and should be the go-to course material experts for their institution.


As the course material landscape evolves, so too should the campus store’s knowledge on the topic. Not long ago, a campus store’s main concern was to make sure it had as many used and new books on hand as possible to meet student demand, but that has drastically changed. Students now have many more options for purchasing materials.

While this picture may sound bleak, there is plenty of opportunity for independent collegiate retailers to own the course materials expertise on their campus, establish themselves as valuable partners and keep their operation successful.

1: Embrace price comparison tools.

Price comparison tools, like Verba, can not only help drive sales to a store’s website, but they can also demonstrate the store’s commitment to providing affordable, accessible course materials. These tools also deliver customer convenience and help position the bookstore as the primary resource to evaluate all course material options.

2: Provide exceptional service.

Proximity is a huge advantage to campus stores. Their on-campus or nearby location gives them the ability to provide personalized service and an authentic retail experience to students. Students simply cannot get the same from an online retailer. Stores should consider adding on- and near-campus delivery and similar services to further set them apart.

3: Offer course material training.

It is imperative that the course material manager, store director and staff are cross trained on current trends. Ensure that the entire team is ready to move from department-to-department and handle the various challenges based on the peak sales periods in the store. Course materials managers should be nimble enough to help customers with any and all merchandise.

4: Understand the all-inclusive fee model.

Inclusive access is trending, and stores should understand and become leading-edge experts on the topic. By communicating with faculty and academic leadership about new and innovative course material delivery models, stores can position themselves as valuable partners. Stores should learn and stay in contact with digital course material providers and publishers and own the knowledge at their institution. Finally, stores should remain in control of the transaction, rather than having digital sales go through academic areas or the campus bursar.

5: Outsource course materials and focus on GM.

Another option for collegiate retailers is to outsource course material management and focus on general merchandise. Before making a critical decision like that, it is imperative that stores consider the pros and cons of such a change and its impact on the institution. Campus Advisory Services can help navigate that crucial decision.

We hope you learned something new from our series on the benefits of independent bookstores. Continue engaging with us to learn more about Campus Advisory Service’s offerings and how we can help you grow your operation. Mark and Denise have a combined 65 years of experience in campus retail, auxiliary services and general merchandising and can provide strategic insight, tactical recommendations and operational expertise.

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