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Successfully Stock Your Bookstore with Expert Adam Richter

In the evolving landscape of college bookstores, adapting to shifting trends and embracing innovation are the keys to success. We sat with DM’s very own bookstore expert, Adam Richter, to delve into the dynamic world of college bookstore merchandising, exploring ways to enhance foot traffic and overall customer experience.


From diversifying product selection to capitalizing on seasonal trends, the insights he provides aim to guide any bookstore towards a thriving future in the age of digital commerce.


What are the top merchandising strategies college bookstores can adopt to enhance foot traffic and overall customer experience?


Adam: To put it simply – stores should mix up their product selection to fit student needs beyond the academic. Bookstores that are willing to re-invent themselves as more than a textbook supplier will have greater profits, increased foot traffic, and higher customer satisfaction.


Keep displays full, keep inventory fresh by regularly injecting new products, and offer trending, popular items students are looking for at prices they can afford. Stocking lifestyle products alongside more expensive emblematic merchandise has been proven to help bookstores succeed.


 Offering unexpected products that tell a story – especially when showcased in DM’s beautifully branded, complimentary displays – keeps customers coming back more often than the start of a new semester.


What are some emerging trends in general merchandise for college bookstores of which retailers should be aware?


Adam: Offering elevated impulse items that are truly useful, and purposefully allocating space for general merchandise. Increasing your square footage of high-margin products gives customers room to shop and explore inventory. Many stores are leaning into this concept further by converting old book space into “de-stress zones” with products like self-care, comfy apparel, funny socks, and fun gifts.


How can bookstores strategically position and rotate their inventory to ensure a fresh look and encourage customers to explore more?


Adam: Create zones within your bookstore by grouping brands and products. This can be as simple as making sure hats and gloves are together, to less obvious pairings like selling snacks near sleep shorts and fuzzy slippers.

Stores can also use displays, shelving, and other fixtures to direct the flow of traffic around the store. For example, you can ensure customers see certain items by placing them along the route to textbooks or the checkout aisle.


How can college bookstores optimize their vendor relationships to ensure they stay up to date on hot products, get the best value for money, and timely deliveries?


Adam: The simple answer – work with a trusted vendor! I am your personal concierge, DM Merchandising releases 100+ new products each year with an average 65% gross profit margin. Every order you place with DM ships within 24 hours. We are committed to seeing your business thrive. Your success is my success!


How can college bookstores effectively curate their product selection to reflect the tastes and interests of their local communities? 


Adam: I always keep you informed of what products are current/trending and what items to reconsider. Colleges are communities and I live in that community.  


Another way to find out? Ask! Students want a relationship with their campus bookstore. Every month, hold open house events to raise student awareness of merchandise you already offer and ask what they would like to see in your store. Little cards at the register with 2-3 new categories you’re considering adding (plus a line for original suggestions) is a fantastic way to check in with your customers. Email works too! Short, easy polls are a great (and free) way to gauge student preferences.


How do seasons, holidays and other important times affect the purchase behavior of bookstore visitors, and how can stores capitalize on these periods?


Adam: As you might imagine, students have buying habits similar to regular shoppers. The holidays inspire gift purchases, decorative buys, festive flair, etc. Don’t overthink it! Is weather getting colder? Stock up on hats, gloves, hand warmer packs, slipper socks and other cozy essentials. Is spring around the corner? Add items for the outdoors, fun lounge shorts, and sunglasses to the mix.


Once you’ve got that down you can start mixing in unexpected, yet no less relevant, items that keep customers excited about coming back. Claw hair clips might not seem obvious to you, but to the students running late to class, a quick, stylish way to do their hair is a no-brainer purchase.


How can bookstores create a seamless blend between their book selection and gift + impulse product to create a holistic shopping experience for their customers?


Adam: The first step is to ensure added inventory follows seasonal trends and meets the practical needs of your patrons. Achieve that perfect balance of need and want, then create an interesting, welcoming space to shop for what’s new. Impulse products are best placed towards the front of a bookstore to catch customers’ eyes as they enter, exit, and at the register check-out. This is the area where fun, giftable products will be seen the most. Have fun with staging and take advantage of complimentary merchandising aids.


How can customers increase traffic in their campus bookstore?


Adam: Get the word out about new and exciting inventory! You’ve done the work, now it’s time to make sure your customers know it. Hosting special events like pop-up shops is a terrific way to showcase new inventory and create a sense of excitement and urgency for students.


These short-term product installations are especially successful when themed. Decide on a campaign for finals like “The Snuggle Is Real” and create a space full of calming, cozy products alongside practical finds like earbuds, fun pens, organizer bags and day planners. DM’s free, prepacked displays are made for this kind of quick turnaround, so be sure to take advantage of merchandising aids whenever possible.


Once your customers get into the store and see all the cool and handy items...word of mouth takes over from there.



What solutions do you have for bookstores that are short staffed?


AR: Products that come shelf-ready are a huge time-saver on arrival and stay more organized between customers. Our prepacked displays require little-to-no assembly and look great without extra props, baskets, or lengthy staging efforts.

DM also offers a wide range of products, which means your bookstore can stock all categories with the ease and convenience of one vendor. That means only one invoice, one person of contact, and one happy employee.


Is it difficult to open an account and get started with multiple programs?


AR: Not at all. A quick account set-up with me (email or over the phone), you’ll have instant access to hundreds of original brands proven to sell in your store. Just pick the programs you would like and I will take care of the rest. I put together a planogram featuring some of the top programs in the college bookstore arena. You can also hand-pick the items you would like, completely up to you.


By reimagining the role of the bookstore beyond textbooks and embracing a diverse array of products, establishments can foster foot traffic and customer satisfaction.  Whether it's the strategic placement of impulse items, leveraging vendor relationships, or capitalizing on seasonal shifts, successful bookstores are those that understand and adapt to the ever-changing needs and preferences of their local communities.


Bookstores looking for a roadmap not only to survive but thrive in a dynamic marketplace can contact Adam by phone at 630-782-2706 or email at arichter@dmmerch.com.


Choosing DM as a vendor means choosing a retail partner that is with you every step of the way. Our signature brands are carefully developed and retail-proven to boost your business. From conception to final sale, we develop our products to be emotionally appealing, affordable, and shelf-ready with built-in merchandising. That’s the DM Difference. So, what are you waiting for? Contact Adam Richter at 630-782-2706 or email arichter@dmmerch.com today!