University Book Store is one of the country’s most interesting campus bookstores. Founded in 1900, the University of Washington’s independent bookstore sells not only textbooks, school supplies and college gear but trade books, general apparel and cosmetics. University Book Store also sells textbooks for other local colleges and private high schools. Its flagship store in Seattle’s U District is a one-stop shop for both students and the local community.
“The idea that we could build our whole retail enterprise around our customers instead of our processes with NetSuite was really appealing to us.” Erin Olinick, CIO, University Book Store
UW’s student government oversaw the Book Store until 1964, when the burgeoning business reorganized as a corporate trust with students and faculty as beneficiaries. The retailer has since expanded to five locations across Seattle and the Puget Sound area. Course materials—everything from stethoscopes to binders to textbooks—have been the company’s biggest growth driver.
The store’s primary challenge is keeping up with its customers’ ever-rising expectations for fast, seamless shopping experiences and low prices. That’s especially difficult because its customer base is always changing as new students arrive. It also faces growing competition from Amazon and book publishers selling direct to students.
In University Book Store’s ongoing effort to make course materials affordable and convenient, it replaced its 35-year-old RATEX solution with NetSuite, unifying ecommerce, point of sale, and order and inventory management. NetSuite’s superior reporting capabilities helped improve cash flow while reducing shipping and inventory costs. Additionally, revenue from digital products like ebooks and access codes has quadrupled.
Washington’s independent bookstore is dedicated to staying nimble so it can meet customers’ needs as they shift. The Book Store will continue to improve its ecommerce and digital books business, and the company is confident its new solution will support those goals.