Not long ago, SDSU’s University Bookstore was just a place in The Union where people bought textbooks and picked up the occasional sweatshirt. But when the university’s athletic programs went D-I in 2004, the little store began to change.
The Union renovation project added 1,600 square feet to the store, but that’s not all that is bigger about the store – so is the marketing strategy.
The store’s product line has also changed. SDSU’s Division-I move has forced the bookstore to carry items that bigger schools, like the University of Nebraska or University of Minnesota, have because that is what students and alumni want.
Derek Peterson, the bookstore’s manager, took over the bookstore in July and has worked to bring in a larger, better line of products.
“It’s the exact same stuff the big schools offer,” he said. “We are looking for items besides T-shirts.”
Now, the University Bookstore is SDSU’s headquarters for university apparel and merchandise. It sells all varieties of items, from tailgating tents to greeting cards to stuffed animals to letter openers sporting SDSU logos, as well as textbooks and schools supplies.
“[The variety of products] gives you more of a chance to be unique as a student,” said Zack Gaver, a freshman history major.
But the bookstore hasn’t always been that way.
Jenn Novotny, director of The Union, said that when the bookstore expanded, new cashier stations and increased retail display space were incorporated.
Now that SDSU is playing at schools all across the country, more alumni go the games. In their new hometowns, sometimes hundreds of miles away from Brookings, in distant lands like California, Louisiana and many other places, they call looking for T-shirts or sweatshirts to wear to those games, Peterson said. The store’s reach has also increased since the D-I move.
“We’re shipping and selling to a broader customer base,” he said.
Because of that, the bookstore has to offer items with verbiage and graphics that are more nationally accepted. Apparel that says SDSU is fine in South Dakota, but in other places, it can be confused with San Diego State University, Peterson said. Also, many alumni ask that “Jackrabbits” be spelled out because “Jacks” can mean more than “Jackrabbits.”
While textbooks bring in the most profits, clothing is more popular, and Peterson said he is always looking at ways to find variety in that area. The bookstore had five clothing vendors about three years ago, now it has 15.
Peterson is working on a way to add replica football and basketball jerseys and apparel with retro SDSU sayings and graphics. He also wants to sell T-shirts and sweatshirts designed by students.
“A lot of good ideas can come from students,” he said.
The bookstore serves as a gift shop for many students and alumni.
Alumna Susan Smith said she likes to buy gifts for family and friends from the bookstore because they went to SDSU or were Jacks back when she was enrolled.
While the University Bookstore is the main shop for SDSU merchandise, other places also carry items sporting SDSU’s logos. Wal-Mart and Sports Connection in downtown Brookings carry apparel and limited items, while Scheel’s in Sioux Falls also offers a few products.
Scott Bullington, owner of Sports Connection, said he isn’t threatened by the bookstore because his consumers want more basic items like T-shirts and hooded sweatshirts.
“Our clientele have different tastes,” he said. “We definitely compliment each other.”
Bullington said he sometimes works with the bookstore when they want a product with a high minimum amount of products that must be bought at one time.
Gaver said it’s hard not to shop other places sometimes because bookstore items can be expensive.
“It’s got a lot of really nice stuff but some of their prices are really high. At Wal-Mart, they have things that are a little cheaper,” he said.
Although she does buy some apparel items at Wal-Mart, Smith mainly shops the bookstore for SDSU merchandise.
“I usually like SDSU’s clothing a little bit better,” she said. “I like getting it from SDSU versus someplace else.”
Students spend a majority of their money at the bookstore on textbooks. Peterson knows that textbooks aren’t cheap, and he believes that has something to do with some students’ negative attitudes towards the bookstore.
Peterson said a lot of students do not realize that the bookstore is run by the university, so all excessive profits go right back to students. He said profits from the bookstore have helped pay for the new union and the future wellness center.
The high cost of textbooks has made the bookstore a focal point of criticism, Peterson said. Many people think students are being take advantage of and have lashed out at the store because textbooks are so expensive.
To combat a negative image, the bookstore is trying to be the in the spotlight more. Managers want to sell merchandise in the tailgating area for football and at a table at basketball games, Peterson said.
Peterson said he has thought of ways the bookstore can make book- buying less harsh, like adding books to the cost of tuition.
Eric Habeck, a freshman hospitality major, said the fact he has to spend so much money on books may create a negative image of the bookstore in his mind.
#1.883846:1385697822.jpg:Bookstore01.jpg:The SDSU bookstore has revamped its image by offering students a wider variety of SDSU apparel, souveniers and service. In the future, the bookstore hopes to provide even more options for its students.:Courtney Wey