Despite a small dip in October sales for the USC Pertusati Bookstore, officials said the store’s retail sales show signs of recovery, consistent with the nationwide trend.
According to Thomson Reuters’ tally of 30 major chain stores, national retail sales for October rose 1.8 percent compared to last October. Though inventory numbers have not yet been finalized, Daniel Archer, director of the Pertusati University Bookstore, said sales in the month were down about 0.7 percent — $250,000 less than the $3.7 million earned last October.
Archer said the relatively small size of the dip is significant. Officials were prepared for worse, he said, particularly considering USC played less home football games this semester.
“The fact that we had these numbers even though we had more football games last year actually makes it a victory,” Archer said.
Archer added he was confident the sales would increase by the USC’s final home game against Arizona on Dec. 5. Last year, the bookstore made $3.3 million in sales in November and $3.9 million in December, Archer said. This year, the bookstore is hoping to at least match last years’ numbers.
“Flat is the new ‘up’ in retail,” Archer said.
Home games tend to be more lucrative for the bookstore, Archer said, generating an average of $600,000 in sales during the week as opposed to about $200,000 for away games or bye weeks.
Alumni and fan purchases account for most of those sales, he said, so the bookstore focuses on selling merchandise such as USC gifts and clothing.
“The Trojan brand right now is one of the hottest in the country,” Archer said. “The Pete Carroll era has been a big piece of why the brand’s popularity has grown. In the end, it’s all driven by Trojan fanatics.”
The sales can also be affected by the success of the football team, according to Lars Perner, assistant professor of clinical marketing at USC.
“Clearly the better the team is doing the better sales will be,” Perner said. “It’s a very critical situation. The more we win and the more national media coverage we get, the more demand there is.”
Though USC has lost two games this year, Archer said the three upcoming home games will generate substantial revenue for the bookstore.
Although retail sales declined only slightly, textbook sales took a larger hit.
“There’s something I refer to as ‘the textbook crisis in America,’” Archer said. “Prices have gotten to the point where students are looking at foregoing buying textbooks.”
Textbook sales, which are strongest at the beginning of each semester, were down about 14 percent compared to 2008, while other book sales were down about 8 percent, according to Raymond McDermott, the manager of course materials for USC Bookstores. Used textbook sales remained about the same.
For the last couple of years, textbook sales have leveled off as more students turn to alternative sources for textbooks, McDermott said. But, he added, the state of the economy last year contributed to a more significant drop than usual.
But finally, sales are beginning to improve, he said.
“It’s only now that most retails are starting to see any kind of pickup,” McDermott said. “The holidays might not be as good as previous years. Even though the recession has ended, the job situation is still horrendous and people aren’t spending on books because of it.”
According to Archer, the book sales and retail sales are independent of each other. Although there are spikes in textbook sales at the beginning of each semester and in general merchandise sales before football games, the bookstore’s computer sales remain more or less constant throughout the year.