r.o.i. Design has been designing for retail for more than 20 years, but now that schools and universities have discovered their customers expect the same kinds of retail experiences on campus as they do in their communities, more than ever we find ourselves working for these institutions. On-campus stores are faced with new business challenges, and they have to be profitable in a time of change.
Unlike what the doomsayers predicted five years ago, books are still being sold in campus bookstores. But online competitors and used book providers continue to eat away at that business. Incoming freshman graduated from high schools where there were textbooks, and professors are still writing and using textbooks, so until those two trends change, there will be books in campus stores.
So the savvy campus stores are looking at other products and services that will eventually eclipse book sales. Leading categories today appear to be technology & communication (equipment and their repair), fashion & apparel, campus services (printing, product rentals, grocery, HBA, etc.) and entertainment (food service, movies and more).
Layout & Aesthetics:
Whether it is a gift shop, a concession stand, a book store, a copy center or a hotel, all these on-campus environments are being compared to their off-campus competitors. Very few students or staff are confined to campus for discretionary shopping.
While convenient, most outdated retail experiences on campus are seeing reduced sales.
Key retail design elements include lighting, store layout and merchandising, wayfinding and signage, and intuitive, easy check-out experiences. Store displays have to be clear and fresh.
Perhaps more difficult to change than product mix or store layout is the store culture and service attitude provided by staff. An institution that has previously considered all customer interface as administrative is now looking at how to change employee mind-sets. The new overall need for staff to be more flexible is paramount; to be open to work different hours, to work different jobs and to continue to be open to change. HR attitudes has further challenged some on-campus stores profitability.
The more on-campus stores can employ students and work to develop structures that hire and train students, the more successful their retailing will be.
This type of service situation (not just found in campus retail but in all retailers) motivated r.o.i. Design to start a consulting arm of their business where they work with teams to support these kinds of changes. See Accelerate ROI.
Marketing and Promotion:
Successful stores have independent marketing agendas and strategies, separate from the institution and marketing to the institution. Sometimes this means changes in staffing so there are resources internally available to support this effort.
Students need reminders of retail locations and what is being sold at those locations, continually. Social media and crowd-sourcing for marketing is undeniably the best tool to use on college campuses.
Campus View has been growing alongside Grand Valley State University for the last 50 years with a large inventory of apartments and town homes, and thousands of happy tenants. But as Grand Valley grows so do options for leasing and Campus View wanted to make their initial experience with potential new tenants reflect who they were more completely.
r.o.i. Design was engaged to redesign the “customer experience” in their lobby and entry. Campus View has made continual investment in amenities but those investments aren’t always visible to customers on their first visit, so the lobby had to become a welcome center and a “billboard”.
Removing the wall and counter that separated leasing staff from the inquiring customers was crucial. Opening up the space meant finding a way to lock down the office after hours, so r.o.i. Design created large sliding doors, that when closed, created a warm backdrop for the lobby.
The use of maple plywood to create office dividers, sliding doors, sales desk and the decorative panels in the hallway eliminated the coldness of the painted concrete block without having to drywall the entire space. The smaller block wall in the lobby was custom painted giving the block an intentional “artsy” look.
Campus View was so happy with the outcome that they sent us a personal thank-you that read, “We’re overjoyed with our updated facility and impressed with every aspect of working with your team. Thanks and we’d be thrilled to be a reference anytime. Cheers!”
For more about Campus View Apartments and Townhouses, click here.
GVSU’s original “cafeteria” was built more than 40 years ago and is still the largest food service facility on campus. It feeds a lot of people but needed to respond to the changing campus and its customers. More seating capacity at Fresh Food Co. and upgraded finishes meant planning for a 2016 summer remodel.
r.o.i. Design, who also designed the GVSU Laker Store in 2014 and its adjacent food court, was engaged by the University through Preferred Construction to create the design.
Einstein Bros. Bagels was moved out to a different location giving the Commons a fourth dining room.
The design team, which included Campus Dining, GVSU Facilities, Preferred Construction and r.o.i. Design, looked at the trends in college dining and the recent building projects on campus along with their customer’s preferences to create a design criteria that could be executed within the budget and timeline.
“GVSU has more than 25,000 students and commensurate staff, so a lot of food service customers who have a variety of preferences. In order to create options in dining, it was agreed that the four rooms would each have a unique feeling so guests could have different experiences within the same facility. We agreed to organize the room designs around four ideas, one per room: water, earth, fire and wind,” says Mary Witte, President of r.o.i. Design. “The dining rooms already had some features that lent themselves to these notions, so we were able to build on what was already there and create something intentional and fun.”
Each room received new flooring, new lighting, new millwork features, new paint accents and new furnishings that aligned with the “theme” of the room.
“Community Tables” were added to allow for larger groups to gather. Custom lighting enhanced the distinct look of each room.
The food line was enhanced with new equipment to allow Campus Dining the option to offer more variety in their menu.
r.o.i. Design’s initial observations of customer’s response to the remodel has been very satisfying and we are proud that our design contributions met the goals of the Fresh Food Co. at The Commons at GVSU.