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Beyond Books: Jewelry and Accessories at Independent College Stores

This article originally appeared in Souvenirs, Gifts & Novelties, August/September 2018

If you’re looking for a top-selling accessory this year, the recommendation from several college stores is to add hats, which carry a universal appeal to both genders. Jewelry appears to be a more popular item at the larger schools than smaller colleges and junior colleges.

Marissa Risk, general merchandise manager of the William & Mary Bookstore, said, “Jewelry provides a simple way for wearers to express their unique style. This definitely resonates with college students, who generally arrive on campus at a time in their lives when they’re stepping into their own for the first time. Also, much of our jewelry reflects the William & Mary spirit through color and logos, which allows students to show pride in their school.

“Our jewelry category provides us with endless opportunity to continue captivating customer interest and awareness. This coming year, we will look to include cross merchandising ideas that really showcase our jewelry and gift selections. Of course, we also always want to make sure these displays are aesthetically pleasing for our consumers.

“At the William & Mary Bookstore in historic Colonial Williamsburg, jewelry is absolutely on our customers’ shopping lists. Our customers are always looking for beautiful accessories to give as gifts or even just to gift themselves. They like a variety of items, including earrings, necklaces, charms, bracelets, etc., especially those with our William & Mary cypher logo which really adds to the value of the jewelry we offer – it not only makes for the perfect look, but also allows its wearer to show their school spirit,” she said.

Risk said that the general merchandise category, which includes jewelry, continues to be a popular category for the bookstore. “Additional top sellers within the gift category include keychains, lanyards, car decals, coffee mugs, lapel pins, notecards, and our custom mascot plush,” she said.

The 34,000-square-foot store’s location in the center of Merchants Square in downtown Williamsburg, Va., attracts a wide variety of customers which, says Risk, “includes not only our William & Mary students, alumni, faculty, and staff, but also Williamsburg locals and tourists. Our mix of customers really informs the mix of accessories we offer in our store. For example, the college family needs William & Mary essentials and logoed gifts, whereas the tourist crowd looks for more souvenir-based accessories.”

The Samford University store, in Birmingham Ala., doesn’t currently sell jewelry, said Buyer Lajeana Chitty. “Because we’re downsized and waiting until the new store is built, we don’t have a lot of room, but we do sell a little of everything. We do look at trends and see what people are wearing when we purchase our jewelry, and we do try new items. We don’t carry many logo pieces but do offer earrings and necklaces priced in the $25 and under range.

“Our top-selling accessories are baseball caps,” she said, “because everybody wears them, they’re adjustable, and appeal to both genders.”

Ty’n Fleet, course material manager for the South- ern University A&M bookstore in Baton Rouge, La., said, “We sell a lot of jewelry during football games, especially items that show school spirit. Our alumni buy jewelry, too—mostly bracelets and earrings. Generally, our jewelry sales are down in the spring and summer and higher during the fall semester. Hats are big sellers, too, especially in the fall season. It’s the first thing people ask for when they come into the store.

“We have two walls full of hats in a variety of styles that include baseball, strap and fitted caps, and many different colors. They’re also very popular with our alumni,” Fleet said.

Hats and baseball caps are also the top-selling accessories at Tyler Junior College in Tyler, Texas, said Carolyn Atchley, store manager. “They sell well because everyone wears them.” The 7,000-square-foot store doesn’t currently sell jewelry. “We don’t stock it because our customers haven’t asked for it,” said Atchley, “and there aren’t any current plans to stock it in the future.”

The 2,500-square-foot bookstore at Arkansas Tech University in Russellville, Ark. doesn’t sell jewelry either, said General Manager Kelcie Pagel. “We’re a smaller school and our customers haven’t requested jewelry, so we just don’t sell it,” she says. “We do sell a lot of baseball hats and caps. They’re universal and simple, don’t require special care and aren’t very gaudy, so they appeal to and are bought pretty equally by both men and women.”