University Business October 2019 - 14

Beyond the News
CAMPUS RETAIL

Big-box retailers bring students close-by convenience
The name of a familiar retailer glowing
from a big-box storefront can provide a
source of comfort for students and families arriving on campus for the first time.
That's one reason more colleges are
inviting companies such as Target, large
grocery chains and others to set up shop
on campus.
The stores also provide a new level of
convenience for students, particularly as
larger schools expand with new mixeduse developments, says Ana Hernandez,
assistant vice president of housing and
residential education at the University of
South Florida.
Leaders at the Tampa institution
formed a public-private partnership with
Publix, Florida's dominant grocery chain,
to open a supermarket in a new residential village north of campus.
The university leases the property
to Publix, which has committed to hiring students. "Students can live, learn,
eat and play, all without having to leave
campus," Hernandez says. "It gives a lot
of comfort as well to families, who see
something familiar and know students
can get food and easy access to a variety
of needs."
Hernandez isn't concerned that the
supermarket will threaten campus dining
halls, which are operated by Aramark,
or the institution's Follett-run bookstore.
"Each of them offers something a little
bit different," she says. "We think they

SELLING POINT-This Publix grocery store serves students who live in a new
residential complex at the University of South Florida.

complement each other in providing
convenience for students."
Shopping shouldn't be 'a drag'
Campuses provide direct access to a
younger batch of customers as brick-andmortar companies scramble to compete
with online retailers, says Dante Pirouz,
an assistant professor of marketing at
Michigan State University. "There are
a lot of nervous retailers thinking about
a new type of shopping experience that
doesn't leave the youngest consumers
thinking: 'What a drag; the last thing
I want to do is go to a supermarket or
stand in line at a store.'"
Target has opened about two dozen
smaller-format stores on or near campuses across the country.
A land swap between the University

Standing out in higher ed
Like retail, higher ed is contending with a highly competitive landscape.
Having shopping opportunities can be a differentiator when students are
deciding where to enroll, says Dante Pirouz, an assistant professor of
marketing at Michigan State University.
"At universities, we are trying to create a better experience and trying
to be unique," Pirouz says. "Retail is a way of making day-to-day living on
campus easier, so students can get back to studying."
14 | October 2019

of Kentucky and a developer paved
the way for Target to open a location
adjacent to the Lexington campus. The
Chicago-based developer also built highend student housing above the store.
On its parcel, UK is planning to
build retail stores, a dining hall, innovation lab space and an esports facility.
It's part of a broader public-private
initiative to refresh the two main commercial thoroughfares that connect
campus to downtown Lexington, says
George Ward, executive director of
Coldstream Research Park and Real
Estate at the university.
Walmart, Target's chief rival, has
been less successful in the college market. It has already closed most of the
handful of stores it opened on campuses,
including at Arizona State University.
In the company's home state of Arkansas, however, students still appreciate its
presence on campus, particularly later at
night when little else is open.
"Everywhere to eat on campus was
closed," University of Arkansas student
Tyler Fowler told UB about a recent
search for a meal after a football game.
"We were too broke for Subway, so we
went into Walmart and got as much frozen food and snacks as we could for $15."
-Matt Zalaznick
UniversityBusiness.com


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University Business October 2019

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