Four weeks into the semester, the bookstore rush for textbooks and study supplies has finally died down. The NYU Bookstore is a place where tourists and aspiring students shop for NYU gear. It becomes a place for students to pick up a book or two when the deals are more attractive than buying from Amazon. But overall, business at the bookstore seems sparse, and this massive storefront is situated within a historical building and is located on one of the most expensive stretches of Broadway. The NYU Bookstore, as it currently exists, is wasteful. There is a better way to sell textbooks to students and profit on merchandise.
Rent in New York City is not cheap, especially for a Broadway-facing storefront with close proximity to a subway station, and the NYU Bookstore is massive — it is one of the largest buildings on the NYU campus. For a store that has very limited foot traffic over most of the year, such a big size is unnecessary, and it constitutes a large part of NYU’s long-term expense. NYU recently contracted bookstore operations to Follett Higher Education, a national bookstore, but expenses are still unnecessarily high. The bookstore still cannot fulfill the students’ purchasing demands with the same low prices outlets like Amazon offer when the semester begins. Rather than continuing to sell low-demand books in the same space as merchandise, NYU should separate the bookstore from the merchandise store.
The university should instead host a pop-up bookstore in a temporary space in the begin of each semester when book demand is highest. Spaces like the Eisner & Lubin Auditorium and the ninth floor hall inside the Kimmel Center for University Life would be good locations for a temporary bookstore. To expedite the checkout process, student volunteers could adopt a mobile checkout process via mobile phones and tablets to prevent an unnecessary line. For students purchasing textbooks and supplies throughout the rest of the semester, books are usually available online.
In addition, bookstore website needs to be revamped to provide for easier navigation. The other part of the bookstore, selling non-academic books and souvenirs, could be moved to a smaller storefront. This can be done by partitioning the current storefront into two sections — one half will retain its current purpose, the other half can either be devoted to other student services, or rented out to other retailers. Extra revenue obtained from this move can be used for more meaningful purposes like funding for financial aid or improving school infrastructure.
While nothing indicates that the NYU Bookstore is in crisis, the current model is clearly inefficient during rush periods and appears to be wasteful during most of the school year. A little more flexibility will significantly improve how student purchase books and bring in another wave of income for NYU which can be put to more practical purposes.
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Email Wayne Chen at [email protected].