Monday, August 26, 2013

Tipping Digital and A New Content Platform

Wiley and the Digital Tipping Point

In June John Wiley & Sons, Inc. reported their fourth quarter, and year end earnings. The report was interesting not only for what it says about Wiley, but also what it indicates about the digital course materials market. In October of last year Wiley acquired Deltak, an online learning management company, for $220 million. Wiley reported that Deltak contributed 28% of Wiley revenue for the fourth quarter. Wiley's move into online education management also serves to leverage Wiley Plus adoption. Wiley Plus is their online teaching and learning solution. Wiley Plus contributed 20% of Wiley’s revenue for the quarter. Together Deltak and Plus contributed 48%, exceeding Print Textbooks at 40%. And Print Textbooks is the only revenue stream in Wiley's education division that is in decline - down 26%. Here are some excerpts from the report:
  • Fourth quarter revenue grew 25%, to $63 million. Excluding Deltak ($17 million), revenue fell 9% due to a decline in print textbook sales including for-profit institutional sales.
  • Fiscal year digital revenue grew $51 million to 30% of revenue vs. 15% in the prior year mainly due to the addition of Deltak revenue, +26% growth in WileyPLUS, and increased ebook sales.
  • Education revenue fell 9% due to a sharp decline in print textbooks, which more than offset growth in Wiley PLUS and other digital revenue.
Nook + Microsoft Apps + Pearson Content  = Interactive Platform for Digital Content

Meanwhile on August 20, Barnes and Noble reported their first quarter earnings. With Retail down 9.9%, and Nook down 39%, College is the lead performer for the quarter, up 2.4%.During the B&N Earnings conference call, there is reference to the "exploding demand" for reading devices in education in terms of the Nook, and the "strong future" B&N sees for their College division based on their investments in digital and ecommerce. Then B&N President and CEO MIchael Huseby says that together with B&N's "primary partner" Pearson, they will develop digital products and services that "will be delivered in the near term." 

As you know, last year Pearson took a %5 equity position with the Nook by investing $89.5 million. Earlier in 2012 Microsoft acquired 17.6% equity in Noon with their investment of $300 million. So that Nook is now tracking a 39% decline does not tell us the entire story of the Nook's future. For that we need to consider B&N' s strategic goals for the device. As well as what plans Pearson and Microsoft may have for the Nook.

"With this investment we have entered into a commercial agreement with NOOK Media that will allow our two companies to work closely together in order to create a more seamless and effective experience for students."    - Will Ethridge, CEO Pearson North America

Let's return to a January article in the Financial Times, which actually originated from dealReporter, a news service focused on providing event-driven intelligence for investors. Citing "two sources familiar with the matter", it says that B&N plans to launch an interactive platform with the goal of becoming a leading distributor of electronic textbooks. A person close to B&N says that the Pearson investment could be one of several publisher partnerships to come. According to an "industry banker", developing such a digital distribution platform could be a step toward providing the software applications which the education market "desperately" needs. Hence the Microsoft partnership.

Leasing Trend Acceleration?
What might a B&N-Microsoft-Pearson (and other pubs) platform mean in terms of the growing trend of leasing college stores? College is the lead performer for B&N in their first quarter with a "strong future" based on B&N's investments in digital and ecommerce. And they refer to their first quarter growth of fifteen new leased college stores with sales totaling $35 million. 

Have you noticed the new direction of the marketing campaigns from leasing companies? Where as in the past their messages were about being as popular as an on-campus pizza franchise, or their legacy of book retailing, their new campaigns promise the digital future and a reliable connection with the student market.

From Stacy Waymire, ICBA Executive Director

Thursday, August 15, 2013

ICBA President’s Update: August 2013

From David Kent, President
ICBA Board of Directors
Director, VOLSHOP, University of Tennessee, Knoxville
Phone: 865.974.1042 | email me

Just in the nick of time, before you get swallowed up with back-to-school rush, I’m happy to share with you a summary of recent ICBA updates, highlights and happenings. On behalf of the ICBA Board of Directors I encourage you to contact us anytime with your thoughts and ideas.

ICBA 2014 Retail Conference
February 3-6, 2014 | Marriott New Orleans | New Orleans, Louisiana
Store registration opened on Wednesday, July 31, and as of today, Tuesday August 13th, there are 158 members registered. It seems everyone, everywhere, is buzzing about the ICBA 2014 Retail Conference, not only because it’s in festive New Orleans, but also because the conference program, as always, promises to provide outstanding solution-oriented education while strengthening core relationships among store professionals, as well as with vendors. Additionally, there’s a lot of excitement about the annual Large Stores Group (LSG) Meeting co-locating with us. As ICBA strives to strengthen the brand and voice of the institutional store model, we’re extremely excited about this collaboration as another way to further cultivate strategic actions and strengthen independent stores as an industry. We are also excited about Verba Software’s decision to co-locate their inaugural Boot Camp with the ICBA Conference, thus growing the value for ICBA course material managers and buyers. Register for ICBA 2014 here.

Operating Surveys Are Now Open
By now your store has probably either completed the first part of the two-part Operating Survey or you’re in the thick of it. The Operating Survey is one of the best ICBA benefits available to you, so please keep these fast-approaching deadlines in your list of priorities:
  • Survey 1 – Practice and Preferences closes on August 15, 2013.
  • Survey 2 – Store Profile and Supplemental Financial Information closes September 30, 2013.
In mid-July, ICBA distributed unique store-specific-links to each member. The store-specific-links make it possible for you to enter partial data, leave the survey, and then return later to complete. If you believe you haven’t received your unique link, please contact ICBA. Learn more.

LSG Partners with ICBA for Operating Survey Platform
The dynamic relationship between ICBA and the Large Stores Group (LSG) continues to grow with LSG’s decision to join us in utilizing our new KPMG Operating Survey platform. Currently over ninety percent of U.S. LSG stores belong to ICBA.

Board of Directors Mid-year Meeting
The twelve Directors making up the ICBA 2013 Board of Directors spent three days, from July 17-19, discussing the industry and making plans. In addition to standard updates and reports from Executive Director, Chief Financial Officer, Secretary and Staff, we focused on strengthening  ICBA, improving benefits and on future solutions—firstly for members and ultimately for independent stores everywhere. To narrow in on how to best serve members, we examined the board structure, ways to empower staff and improve competence, membership types and their needs, touched on technology needs, and discussed programs and services.

During the ICBA Board Meeting not a minute was wasted. During breakfast, lunch and dinner we continued our conversations and our focus on solutions for the future. During lunches, committees and work groups took time to meet and shared these few highlights:
  • Membership Committee finalized questions for ICBA Member Satisfaction Survey. Be on the lookout and let us know what you think—anytime, not just via surveys and evaluations.
  • Annual Meeting & Education Committee shared that among a vast array of education for all store professionals, the Conference will also narrow in on POS developments such as mobile and social, integrating systems, system-to-system data flow, Customer Relationship Management, loyalty programs and analytics from big data to big insights. As part of this effort, ICBA has confirmed Joe Skorupa, Editor-in-Chief of RIS News, and Richard Mader, Executive Director, NRF Association for Retail Technology Standards, as presenters at the ICBA 2014 Retail Conference.
  • Technology Solutions Committee reported that they continue to explore out-of-industry POS system providers as a way to help identify improvements for our industry, and how they might improve store performance. 
  • The Executive Committee is striving to collaborate with indiCo, NACS, LSG and other organizations on ways to further support independent college store needs. The Operating Survey and co-location are examples already in place. Potential proposals might incorporate such ideas as establishing technology standards, centralizing data and analytics, growing industry business intelligence and digital content platforms.
To discuss the pulse of the industry, broaden our perspectives and deepen our search for solutions, three guests were invited to join us for a day. We were honored and thankful that these industry leaders took the time to meet with us: Chris Tabor, Campus eBookstore President, Canadian Campus Retail Associates President, and Director at Queens University; George Masforroll, Associate Vice President of Auxiliary Services at Broward College, and NACS President; and Jeff Nelson, Director of Bookstores & Card Services at Bowling Green State University, and ICBA Technology Solutions Committee Chair. The insights and outcomes were invaluable and will inevitably be interlaced into strategic actions going forward.

Overall, the meeting was significantly successful. As news and actions surface from the Board Meeting, I’ll continue to keep you updated.

Nominations for Board of Directors
In July, during the Board Meeting, directors defined how many positions and what roles would be needed for the 2014 ICBA Board of Directors. A call for nominees from the membership will be communicated from the Nominating Committee in September.

Jeff Zeilenga Departs from the Board
Jeff Zeilenga (University of Missouri) has stepped off of the ICBA Board of Directors just six months shy of completing his term, due to other commitments and obligations. Jeff will continue to serve on the ICBA Technology Solutions Committee. Thank you to Jeff for his generous service to ICBA members!

Campus eBookstore Update
ICBA partnered with Canadian Campus Retail Associates to create Campus eBookstore (CEI). The goal of Campus eBookstore is to demonstrate the capability and credibility of independent college stores as viable participants in the distribution of digital course materials.

Where have we succeeded, and where have we not? CEI has succeeded in the first two phases of CEI development; free materials (Digital Study Versions), and commercial eTextbooks, with our partner Vital Source. Where we have not succeeded is in achieving a position in the distribution of publisher access codes in the United States, although CEI is currently distributing selected publisher access codes in Canada. We are continuing to work toward achieving that goal.

Going forward, CEI will be debuting additional software services for affiliated stores including buyback pricing data, buyback price look-up and email marketing tools, competitive pricing feeds, peer-to-peer classifieds, and product reviews.

Welcome New ICBA Members
If you haven’t already done so, please welcome the following new members that joined ICBA between January 1 and August 1, 2013.
  • Auraria Higher Education Center
  • Bellevue College
  • Big Bend Community College
  • California State University, Chico
  • California State University, Fresno
  • Cornell University
  • Flagler College
  • McGill University
  • Missouri State University
  • McMaster UniversityPeninsula College
  • University of British Columbia
  • University of California, Davis
  • University of California, Irvine
  • University of Nevada at Reno
  • University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill
  • University of Victoria


Friday, August 9, 2013

Fast Fashion Continues to be a Treasure for College Stores

At the beginning of June, two groups of savvy, college store professionals spent two full days trolling the LA Fashion District in search of hot, fashionable merchandise to meet the growing demands of their customers. The 16 professionals represented nine schools: Auburn University, Brigham Young University, Cal State Fullerton, Cal State Long Beach, Oklahoma State University, University of Arizona, University of Texas at Austin, University of Idaho and University of Utah. 

Each school arrived with their agendas, goals and areas to focus on. While schools such as Auburn, Long Beach and Brigham Young already had established fashion sections in their stores, others such as Oklahoma State and University of Idaho arrived with express intention to kick off their new boutique store or section using the merchandise they purchased while there in Los Angeles. With current fashion apparel and accessories at 20-60% below wholesale prices, everyone was sure to “win” during this trip. 

In August of 2012, the first ICBA LA Fashion District Excursion was initiated by ICBA to accelerate members seeking new ways to capitalize on their customers’ desires for non-imprinted fashion, and to replace lost revenue caused by changes in course materials. 

With more than 2,000 shops crammed into the LA Fashion District it was agreed that without Bob and Angie from The Insiders Buying Office, an ICBA Program Vendor, navigating the area for us, choosing the most appropriate stores with the newest fashions at the best prices would have been extremely overwhelming, challenging and potentially even more exhausting than it already was.

The first day focused on “show rooms”. These shops displayed, some quite eloquently, and others not-so-much, one of each available item. College store professionals perused and shuffled through merchandise to find just the items that made sense for their customers. While one school might have found an abundance of treasure in one shop another might pass completely. The second day included warehouses where buyers rummaged through boxes and rows of hanging merchandise to reveal their next best-seller. Since fashion isn’t complete without accessories buyers were turned loose in a three-story building crammed with jewelry, bags and purses, belts, hats, cell phone covers, cosmetics and much, much more—even plush toys were discovered.

One of the best rewards of the buying trip was the peer-to-peer networking. With each person openly lending their opinions and experiences, store-to-store sharing and learning happened at every juncture. When I asked participants what they liked best about the buying trip, among references to variety of products and great deals, they said,

  • “As a first time participant and new Fashion Store opening, it was very helpful to talk to others and get ideas for our store.”
  • “…finding out what other store college stores are doing in this merchandise category.”
  • “I also love going with other college stores and hearing what works in their stores.”
  • “I enjoyed meeting everyone and exchanging ideas.” 
Everyone can learn from the LA Fashion District Buying Excursion. This list is comprised of pointers I collected from Bob and the buyers:
  • Be ready to do business. Before travelling, notify your credit card company. Bring your business tax certification/number. It’s also a good idea to let your shipping department know your purchases could arrive before you return or before you have time to complete the in-store procedures. Many products require that they are shipped the same day they’re purchased, while others can be held for later ship-dates—it depends on the vendor.
  • Budget, plan and be prepared to bend. Have an idea of what your budget is and what you plan to buy, but be flexible and open to items you hadn’t considered. Ideally you want to know where every item will go in your store, but if you don’t, don’t let it stop you from moving forward. With hot new products at low prices it could be a low-risk way to test a new style, category or product. 
  • Price to sell. With apparel and accessories at 20-60% below wholesale prices you should be able to sell most products at a high enough margin that even if you have to mark something down to 50% off, you’re still making a profit and not losing it. Advice shared among buyers was to set two or three price points that you know your customers are comfortable spending and then select merchandise priced to support those price points.
  • Pay attention to sizes. Many fashion items are created with different customers in mind. LA Fashion District merchandise may not be designed for the traditional college student, but rather for the smaller frames of Asian and Latino customers—an important thing to pay attention to.
  • Make it your own. In some warehouses cut or missing labels is the norm. Large companies, such as Forever 21, may drop an order and let a warehouse sell it, but only with labels cut or removed. Many collegiate retailers turn this into a branding opportunity by creating and using their own tags.
  • Buy now. Be decisive and ready to buy what you see when you see it—what you see today won’t be there tomorrow. Knowing your customers’ likes and dislikes makes this much easier.
  • Don’t overbuy. It’s okay to pass. If you have to think on it too much you may want to pass on it. As critical as it is to buy the right thing, it’s just as critical not to overbuy. 
  • Don’t get pushed around. Vendors are not allowed to pressure or push you into buying. Remember this is your business and you know your customers best. It’s your money—not theirs. This rule applies in the store and everywhere.
  • Trust yourself. If you’re new to the fashion merchandising category, have a little patience while you learn the ropes. Remember you can tap on your peers for advice, do research and find the education you need. I overheard a buyer saying something along the lines of, “I just know what to buy now. I used to agonize over every item, but I’ve been doing this for a while and now when I see something I just know right away if it will work or not.”
Overall, the 2013 LA Fashion District Buying Trip was considered extremely successful for those that attended. Having had such overwhelming success and interest for the first two years, it is likely ICBA will continue to help coordinate group buying trips for members. Be on the lookout for the next ICBA treasure hunt—and if you have any ideas please feel free to let us know.

For a fast fashion jump-start, try these:
We encourage you all to learn as much as you can, share your knowledge and successes about retailing fashion merchandise and take advantage of merchandise available from Insider’s Buying Office, an ICBA Program Vendor.

  • ICBA Fashion Group on Facebook, for ICBA members, is filled with photos, promotions and great ideas. To join the ICBA Fashion Group: 1)  Log into your Facebook account. 2)  Find for “ICBA Fashion Group”. 3)  “Request to Join”, it’s found on the top right hand side of the page. 4)  Once your request is approved, you will be added to this private group.
  • ICBA College Stores LinkedIn group is perfect for asking your questions, adding to conversations and searching for what you might have missed. Though it’s fantastic for your fashion questions/research, it’s also the prime place for any topic. 

  • Apparel Off-Price/Insider’s Buying Office, an ICBA Program Vendor, makes it easy for you to buy contemporary fashions at 20-60% below wholesale. View their program online when you login to ICBA. See all ICBA Program Vendors. You can also contact for more information, please be sure to mention ICBA.

  • What vendors do you use? Click here to tell us which companies you use to fulfill your fast fashion needs. Though we’ll take the information anytime, it’d be great if you can let us know by Friday, September 13,2013. From what you and others share we’ll create a valuable resource that you can use to expand and enhance your department assortment.
Written by Sadja Pals, ICBA Marketing & Membership Manager