Xtreme! Provides a Unique View of Retailing

Printer-friendly versionPrinter-friendly version

Scott Meyer of Merritt Books in Millbrook, New York, and ABA COO Len Vlahos were among the participants in the National Association of College Stores' (NACS) Xtreme! 2010 retail education program in Boston last week. Meyer attended on an ABA scholarship. Vlahos was a presenter at the event, which focused on the theme "Exerting Your Independence" through a series of store tours and workshops over two and a half days.

“It’s one of the only educational experiences available to book retailers where you go into the field and examine retail best practices up close and personal,” said Vlahos.

Meyer especially appreciated the forward-focused theme of the program. “Knowledge is key,” he said. “I always like to try to understand what’s happening now, as well as developments in future technologies and different ways of doing business.”

Booksellers from across the country, as well as Australia and the West Indies attended the NACS program, which looked at store design and layout, branding, and the shopping experience, all with a view towards understanding the store of 2015.

“Every time I go to an educational event for booksellers, I learn something, and more importantly, get re-motivated,” said Meyer. “When you have people meeting together from different stores, you get a lot of different ideas.”

Participants visited and evaluated several bookstores – Harvard Book Store, The Harvard Coop, and Trident Booksellers and Café – as well as notable niche retailers on Boston's Newbury Street.

“I’d never gone into other stores to evaluate their businesses before,” said Meyer. “It was good to watch the way customers behaved, the way product was displayed, and the way staff responded.”

In one store, Johnny Cupcakes, actually a T-shirt shop, Meyer saw that the store’s history was fully explained. He thought that was a smart business idea. “We don’t really tell our own story about who we are,” he said. Meyer now plans to fix that by bumping up promotion of Merritt Books on the store's e-commerce site and via social media.

“It was interesting to see all those retail businesses,” said Meyer, “and to meet colleagues with different types of stores and different issues.”

While the program centered on preparing for industry shifts, Meyer said it also stressed that there were things about retail that would remain the same. “Products are going to change and books are going to change, but we’re still a people business,” he said. “We still need to serve our communities.”