Stores Popping Up on Campus

Discussion
Sep 19, 2008

By Tom Ryan

College students have long been a target for marketers looking to build brand loyalty. But only in the past few years have brands set up pop-up stores on campuses, recruited students for paid positions to aggressively promote their products, and hosted their own campus events. And the trend appears to be gaining momentum.

Victoria’s Secret’s this fall opened up pop-up stores for its Pink collection at about 12 schools, up from 10 last spring, according to an article in The Wall Street Journal. The stores open for a day, selling merchandise, handing out promotional items and collecting used clothing for charity.

Havaianas, the flip-flop maker, opened temporary “pop-up” store on five campuses in the U.S., and is running competitions awarding trips to Brazil. Sustainable-clothing brand RVL7 installed a bamboo-clad temporary mini-store at six to eight campuses this fall.

According to the Journal, the campus-push by brands is likely to accelerate. American Collegiate Intramural Sports, which sells sponsorships for college intramural programs and fitness centers, is seeking a fashion brand to sponsor fitness centers and host pop-up stores at 100 campuses in the next year.

These events come as both the number and spending power of students has grown sharply. About 18.3 million students will enroll in U.S. post-secondary institutions this fall, up 26 percent from 14.5 million a decade ago, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. The discretionary spending of 18- to 30-year-old students is estimated to reach $53 billion this year, 10 percent more than last year and 29 percent more than in 2005, according to the latest College Explorer study by Harris Interactive for Alloy Media and Marketing.

Some schools reject the idea of brands promoting products on campus because they infringe on on-campus stores. Others have a long-standing policy against brands setting up shop on campus. Said University of Florida spokesman, Steve Orlando, “We don’t want our faculty and students overrun with commercialization.”

But companies generally make a donation to the school, campus bookstore or student organization that sponsors their visits. Many of campaigns also have an educational or academic element, such as lessons about sustainability from RVL7 or interviews for internships at Victoria’s Secret’s Pink shop. Tony Berger, president of New York event-and-marketing firm Relevent, which helps organize campus campaigns, said that often the schools and students view the visits as having “added value.”

Discussion Questions: How big an opportunity do pop-up stores on college campuses represent for consumer brands and retailers? What are the pros and cons associated with the pop-up store tactic?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

13 Comments on "Stores Popping Up on Campus"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Doron Levy
Guest
Doron Levy
13 years 8 months ago

This article is along the same lines as yesterday’s airport retailing piece. Location and foot traffic are yours for the taking on campus. Setting up hot and trendy brands in the heart of your target market is a no brainer and retailers should consider colleges and universities as part of their marketing push.

As for the ‘commercialization’ of the campus? I don’t buy it. Is your stadium sponsored? What chains do you have in your food court? If anything, these pop-ups benefit the students by adding an element of convenience in their already hectic schedules.

Max Goldberg
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

With the spending power of college students, pop-up stores can be huge for brands. These same students have been avid shoppers, with lots of disposable income throughout their teen years. They are accustomed to being courted by brands, yet tune out traditional advertising that does not engage them.

Pop-up stores, if done creatively, and tied to causes (both on and off campus), engage students and could be a valuable vehicle for brands to build sales and drive loyalty.

Mark Patten
Guest
Mark Patten
13 years 8 months ago
For eons, campus bookstores have been a “commercial” enterprise on campus. Either owned by the college or contracted out to private companies, campus stores are not only there to provide required reading materials, but also to make money for the institution. The problem has been, of course, that the vast majority of campus stores don’t operate as a true retail business and they have dropped the ball over the years by not capitalizing on the huge captive youth market that they serve daily. The result? Smarter companies than them have come in to set up shop on campus and good on them! So long as the companies provide some commission or donation back to the college then it really is a win/win for the college, and the student customer. If campus stores picked up this trend and worked with these companies, there are huge opportunities for these vendors to partner on a long term basis with established, trusted retailers on campus to further expand the product offerings to students. Imagine the dorm room sales, the… Read more »
Barton A. Weitz
Guest
Barton A. Weitz
13 years 8 months ago

Opening pop-up stores offers an effective for retailers and brand manufacturers to promote their offering to college students. These stores create a buzz on campus that goes well beyond building brand image and selling merchandise to college students. The pop-up stores also build the retailer’s employment brand–the retailer’s image of the retailer as a place to work after graduation.

Some might be concerned about commercialization of college campuses, but commercialization is rampant on college campus now. Most college campuses are ringed by commercial ventures. On campus retailers like the campus bookstores and food service are typically outsourced and run by companies like Follett and Marriott. Thus, on campus retail pop-up stores are not directly competing against the universities, but against the firms that the university has selected to run these on campus enterprises. I suspect that if the pop-up store retailers offered a financial incentive to the universities in these difficult economic times, the universities would gladly support these pop-up stores.

Charles P. Walsh
Guest
Charles P. Walsh
13 years 8 months ago

Pop up stores on college campuses are an interesting, albeit expensive way to build brand identity and drive sales for both CPG and retailers.

Targeted product placement has become more sophisticated over time with the internet increasingly showing its ability for Etailers to grab market share. Pop up stores are nothing if not extreme product placement campaigns. I see them as the ultimate in “in your face” seasonal promotions competing effectively against brick and mortar stores seasonal “back to college” and other seasonal events.

Operational costs have to be a consideration, however.

Gene Detroyer
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

This is an outstanding strategy. For those brands that target this demographic, it is perfect. It makes the products available when the student is very open to making changes in their own lives, like changing from their favorite high school brand to what is appropriate for college. This is an ideal way for a small manufacturer to accelerate the “Tipping Point.”

The issue of being commercial is ridiculous. Every campus today has sold every brick for a fee.

Cathy Hotka
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

Car-less students frequently have to travel long distances to purchase clothing and other essentials. This year, I’ve watched my free-spending high school senior head to a large public university, essentially a shopping-free zone. In the same way that fast-food companies have realized the value of courting children who will later grow up into loyal adults, so retailers who open pop-ups on campus will be rewarded with that same brand loyalty.

Tim Henderson
Guest
Tim Henderson
13 years 8 months ago

Campus pop-up is a smart move by savvy merchants. Sure, some schools will opt out, but as the article notes, there are other ways to reach this consumer. Even outside the pop-up segment, merchants continue to take steps to reach this consumer, e.g., the Sam’s Club Collegiate Membership, Canada’s Student Price Card, the Bed Bath & Beyond college store locator, and merchants who funnel cash-back rewards to tuition costs.

That said, the most important lesson here may be that merchants have the opportunity to successfully reach consumers by marketing to them during a particular life stage. In this case, it’s college students. On the other end of the age spectrum exists another active consumer in another unique living arrangement who is also on the hunt for products that suit their life stage: the active living retirement community resident.

Carol Spieckerman
Guest
Carol Spieckerman
13 years 8 months ago

Campus pop-ups mark an important development: pop-up stores and other temporary locations are no longer relegated to being a marketing write-off; they are a niche-mining, loyalty and profit-driving tactic; one that really represents localization at its finest. I don’t see a lot of downside, particularly when, in the case of campus pop-ups, brands are reaching out to one of the only demographics that is increasing spending!

Dick Seesel
Guest
13 years 8 months ago

Many student unions turn over space to franchise eateries (Taco Bell, Burger King and the like), offering a choice outside of the college’s own food service. It’s a win for students who prefer the brand names as well as a win for schools who collect revenue from the arrangement. Pop-up stores provide the same kind of concept; in fact, many college bookstores may have a more permanent “store within a store” opportunity by turning over real estate to specialty retailers.

Dan Hosterman
Guest
Dan Hosterman
13 years 8 months ago
This is the first that I have heard of this marketing approach. And I agree that it does present a good opportunity for some of today’s retailers to increase their brand awareness. But I think they need to be careful, and do it right. In order to do it right, I see 2 key things that retailers need to consider for these events: 1) It needs to create a buzz. College kids are generally all about fun and excitement. Walking from class to class is generally uneventful. So retailers need to create something that gets them involved and has them talking when they get to their next class. Such events would be games and most definitely opportunities to win free stuff. 2) Don’t overdue it. Too many pop-ups on the same campus will make the retailer look desperate. I would think no more than one a semester. As long as the schools don’t allow pop-ups to pop-up everyday, then I can see them continuing to be effective. Too many pop-ups would then become too routine.… Read more »
Ken Yee
Guest
Ken Yee
13 years 8 months ago

It’s all about the money.

Schools are no different than businesses, no matter what message they try to convey. They teach students, but want to make sure they get as much money as they can from students, government subsidies, donations and commercial businesses.

If they can make more money off a private company than running campus stores themselves, they’ll lease out the real estate. That’s why there’s usually only a handful of campus stores vs. the large number of private retailers and food court eateries.

Also, you would think campus stores would sell stuff cheap to students, since it’s looking out for their population, right? It’s the opposite. You can find clothes, supplies, computer gadgets much cheaper at traditional retailers elsewhere. Campus stores have very high margins. Even books are a ripoff. Order them online and save 25%.

Odonna Mathews
Guest
Odonna Mathews
13 years 7 months ago

Colleges should be open to pop-up stores on campus if they are done tastefully. After all, look how many campuses now have Starbucks, Einstein Bagels, Barnes and Noble and other permanent choices for students.

I like the emphasis on intramural sports and offering fitness wear to students. Seems like a natural-convenient for the student, and an opportunity for the campus to tie-in educational or academic products.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

How big an opportunity do pop-up stores on college campuses represent for consumer brands and retailers?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...