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Written by Mike Thee
January 10, 2018
Image credit: Matt Lipsen
When you walk into the SU Campus Store’s new location at 12th and Madison, you’re immediately blown away. From the bounteous natural light streaming through the windows to the eye-catchingly displayed merchandise—the store pulls you in.
After years in the University Services Building, the store made its move to 1125 12th Ave. over Christmas break and, thanks to the hard work of its staff, it reopened for business on this busy Capitol Hill corner Jan. 2.
The move and what it means for SU—and its neighborhood—is not lost on the store’s manager, Marc Parrish. A 2009 SU alumnus, Parrish not only bought his textbooks at the store as he earned a degree in mathematics, but also worked there as a student employee.
Just days after the store’s reopening The Commons caught up with Parrish (pictured below) to talk about the store’s new location and more, including the university’s partnership with Follett, which has been operating the store since 2015.
THE COMMONS: What are some of the benefits as you see them of the store’s new location at 12th and Madison?
MARC PARRISH: Well, how much time do you have? The list is quite extensive! First, it claims the intersection of 12th and Madison as the entrance to campus from the northeast side. The seasonal banners and the permanent illuminated signs can be seen from blocks away. No longer is Seattle U the best kept secret on Capitol Hill. Also, our store has so much exposure! I frequently see people looking in through our large windows (we never had the luxury of windows before) and we have unfamiliar faces walking in and shopping.
THE COMMONS: As for the interior space itself, what are some of the features that stand out for you?
MARC PARRISH: Frankly, it is everything our previous store wasn’t. Lights, carpeting, fixtures, paint—it’s all brand new and in school colors. The quality of every component is outstanding. I’m especially impressed by the gift and apparel departments. The product is merchandised in ways we couldn’t before, and it just looks so much better on new equipment with a backdrop of red and grey. We’ve actually had a lot of customers ask if we put out new product in the store. We will, of course, but at the moment it’s all in the merchandising and store design. Another feature I like is our new food department. It’s much larger than before, and by the time Vi Hilbert Hall opens (fall 2018), we will be ready to offer an expanded assortment of fresh and frozen options for students, faculty and staff. Lastly, the tall ceiling and wide aisles make the store feel much more inviting and impactful.
THE COMMONS: What sorts of feedback have you been getting from the customers who have visited the new location so far?
MARC PARRISH: The positive feedback—from students to faculty, staff and administrators—has been overwhelming! Even (SU President) Fr. Steve (Sundborg) recently poked his head in and applauded the work of Facilities and Follett. And this is only the beginning. We’re still finalizing the installation of graphics and signs on the walls which will really tie together the space. This new store is the campus store that Seattle U deserves. Students, faculty and staff have been wanting this for quite some time, and I’m thrilled to see it happen.
THE COMMONS: What does the new store mean for SU’s brand?
MARC PARRISH: I believe that a good campus store not only shares the (university’s) brand with the community, but also helps build it. This store will now do both. In time, tours will start and end at the campus store, and this store will be the exclamation point to complete a prospective student’s visit to Seattle University.
THE COMMONS: Does the move to the new location afford any opportunities to expand the store’s merchandise or services?
MARC PARRISH: Absolutely! We are no longer a hidden store on campus, but a store for the community. Greeting cards, food, office supplies and technology, including Apple products, are just a few departments that I expect to see growth due to sales to the community. As such, merchandise will be adjusted accordingly, as has already been planned for in our food department.
THE COMMONS: You’ve been working at the store for some time now—can you share a little bit of the roles and experiences you’ve had so far?
MARC PARRISH: Believe it or not, I’ve worked at the campus store for over 12 years now, since I was just an 18 year old work-study student. During that time, I’ve held a variety of roles in the store, until eventually store manager as a SU employee, and then store manager as a Follett employee. I’ve been tasked with leading the team here through a transition in operations of the store 2 ½ years ago, and now the transition in store location. In both cases, the task seemed insurmountable at times, but it is due to my incredible team and the familial bond that we have that we were able to make it through it all. Further, in both transitions, I have always received tremendous support from the SU community that I have gotten to know so well. Be it emotional or logistical, I’ve always felt supported and know that I am part of a community that cares deeply about the store team, and the store itself. Knowing who to call in an urgent situation, and those situation have popped up over the years (and even this move!), has been essential for me and my team. I feel a strong sense of gratitude to be a part of this great community.
THE COMMONS: Can you talk about the university’s collaboration with Follett to conceive and create the new space?
MARC PARRISH: This store was a year and a half in the making, and involved the work of many people and had to please many stakeholders. The layout of the space went through three or four versions as we worked together to plan a space that worked for the university, the city of Seattle, Urban Storage and store operational needs. Effort was made on both sides to ensure the space is flooded with natural light, that windows and storefront on both 12th Ave. and Madison were maximized.
The soon-to-be installed graphics were carefully considered to ensure that the branding of the store is perfect, and completely tied in to the rest of campus. Seattle U was an amazing partner in building out the space for us, ensuring that Follett was an active collaborator in the early process, a luxury that Follett doesn’t have often, I’m told.
On the Follett side, it took a lot of work from the store planning team to design and manage the final build-out. We had plenty of help with boots on the ground support from store transitions employees as well as corporate merchandisers to ensure the sales floor looked perfect.
At the store level, my management team and part-time employees spent long hours over the holiday break physically moving the merchandise and setting up the store, all while keeping up with daily operational needs and ensuring that all of our nearly 1,000 online orders for winter quarter are processed and ready for pickup by the first day of classes. I am truly indebted to them for their incredible dedication. They say it takes a village, and that’s truly what it took to make this project a success.
THE COMMONS: More generally speaking, how has the university’s partnership with Follett been going so far?
MARC PARRISH: In my opinion, it couldn’t be better! Even before the move, sales are up across the board. Our online business is booming. Text rental is extremely popular, resulting in students saving up to 80 percent on their books, and text market share growing to the highest it’s been in years. Cost-effective digital books are growing in popularity.
The university has also been a great partner is making this happen. Through collaborative efforts, we are now able to send sale e-mails through an opt-out list to the community. ITS has been a great partner in not only technical back end integration like enrollment and course data, but also partnering in progressive enhancements. For example, last year we rolled out programming so that from a student's course schedule, students are just one click away from a pre-populated shopping cart of all required books at the lowest available price—a great customer experience.
THE COMMONS: Will there be any sort of celebration of the store’s new location in the weeks to come?
MARC PARRISH: Yes! We are planning a grand opening for sometime in February, so stay tuned.
THE COMMONS: Can you remind us what the discount is for faculty and staff shopping in the store?
MARC PARRISH: Faculty and staff receive 20 percent off most items in the store, just not technology or textbooks. We also offer sales and clearance events every month or two, and regularly receive promotionally priced apparel as low as $9.95.
Visit the Campus Store online here.
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