By Justin Buchanan ’12
Garfield Bookstore general manager Amanda Hawkins is not a typical business manager trying to turn a profit, instead she seeks to serve students.
The bookstore’s top selling products are textbooks, selling numerous textbooks to Pacific Lutheran students every semester. However, the bookstore has yet to turn a profit, and they’re okay with that.
“We’re a service for the students,” Hawkins said.
According to Hawkins, in the 2011 fiscal year the bookstore total textbook inventory cost them $977,295.46. After all textbook sales, the bookstore made a profit of $108,124.45. In the average month, $9000 of profit is made from textbook sales.
“Textbooks is our biggest seller, but basically there isn’t any profit in it,” Hawkins said.
The profit made in textbook sales can be deceiving, as it does not cover the operating cost of the bookstore.
“Our textbooks barely cover the costs ’cause shipping can be hundreds of dollars,” Hawkins said.
Hawkins reports the operating cost for the store can be over $1 million per year.
The monthly lease for the building is approximately $270,000 per year, Vice President of Finance and Operations Sheri Tonn said. The bookstore employs a staff of eight full-time members and 33 student employees.
“A little over half of our gross income comes from textbooks, the rest comes from other merchandise in the store,” Tonn said. “Some of the discretionary items the intention is to contribute to the bottom line…those include items such as Norwegian sweaters, beautiful glass wear and cosmetic products. The sale of those items help subsidize the cost of those textbooks.”
The bookstores largest difficulty in lowering the prices is the fact that the store does not set the price for textbooks. The publisher does.
Bookstore Textbook Manager Brianne Sorensen finds the lack of price control makes it difficult to keep up with online competitors such as Amazon.com and Half.com.
“Our prices are set by the publisher,” Sorensen said. “So it’s difficult to stay competitive with Amazon.”
Sorensen’s primary duties are to seek the lowest price for every textbook that comes into the store.
Sometimes the bookstore is able to purchase many different books with one publisher, allowing them to cut cost on shipping.
“If we get any kind of deal we pass it on to the students,” Hawkins said.
The sales of new textbooks around the world have dropped by 71 percent in the past four years according to eCampus.com an online textbook retailer.
“The book world has been changing really fast and we have been trying to keep up on top of this rapidly changing world,” Tonn said.
The bookstore has been working on establishing a rental program for a while. This spring the bookstore hopes to implement the rental program.
“It’s just a logistical nightmare,” Hawkins said.
Sorensen says she understands students wanting to shop online for their textbooks. However, she believes the bookstore still provides the best option for students.
“I hear stories everyday about students getting the wrong book off of Amazon,” Sorensen said. “They eventually need to buy them here.”
Hawkins echoed Sorensen’s concern.
“There are a lot of students that have two books. It’s a risk you take with shopping with Amazon, you might not just get your order,” Hawkins said. “It’s never best to go to Amazon.”
The decision to buy a textbook from the bookstore varies from student to student.
Senior Norris Potter purchases his books from the bookstore using a book stipend.
“I buy them from Garfield. I’ve bought them from online before, but it’s right there and they have the books,” Potter said. “It’s a little bit cheaper [to buy online], I just don’t like dealing with waiting.”
On the other hand, senior Dan Case shops online for his textbooks.
“I buy from Half.com, Amazon, eBay and if all else fails, the bookstore,” Case said.
Although they are not for profit, Sorensen still wishes students shopped at the bookstore because of the community the bookstore fosters.
“Shopping at Amazon is like driving people out of your community.” Sorensen said. “The more people shop at Amazon the less of the chance there is for this bookstore.”
The bookstore is reaching out to students in order to better meet their needs.
“We want to carry whatever merchandise the students want us to carry,” said Tonn. “We absolutely welcome suggestions about merchandise.”
Facts compiled by Justin Buchanan
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