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The National Association of College Stores (NACS) plays a key role in serving its members by tracking the higher education retail market and reporting the latest findings.
Student Spending on Course Materials
Student Watch 2012: Student Attitudes & Perceptions provides a larger look at student spending on course materials at all locations. According to this most recent Student Watch data, students report spending an average of $655 on required course materials in the past 12 months. On average, students indicate spending 57% of their total course materials budget at their college or university store (in-store or web site).
College Students, Full-time and Part-time
Higher education enrollment figures indicate the number of students registered or enrolled at an institution. There was a significant change in student enrollment in recent years. In addition to an increase in total enrollment, there was also a change in the number of students that were enrolled fulltime. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, 62% of college students in the U.S. were enrolled fulltime, down from 75% that were enrolled full-time last year.
Why it matters -
The number of students is one of the most common measures used when comparing college campuses or talking about the college market. It is very important to evaluate both total enrollment and the FTE [full-time equivalent] numbers for institutions, as well as the percentages of full-time and part-time students, in order to make relevant comparisons.
Student Spending in College Stores
The price of individual textbooks varies greatly, depending on subject matter and many other factors. For college stores, any book or other media that is required or recommended for class is a textbook. This is a much broader definition than is used by publishers or often assumed by college students. And it is a significant factor in the average price reported from the NACS Financial Survey data. Textbooks for college stores will include many books and materials not published as textbooks. A few examples of general books that could be sold as course materials would be Jane Austen novels for literature classes, biographies for history courses, or current paperbacks for sociology and political science students. This broader definition results in significant differences in estimates of textbook prices and the total textbook market, compared to estimates based only on "published textbooks."
The 2010-11 average price reported above was based on the sale of 8.1 million new books sold in 128 U.S. college stores. That year's average price for a used book was calculated from the sale of 5.3 million books.
New and Used Textbooks
Another big issue for college stores and students are used textbooks. While some would seem to suggest that used books will overtake new books in the college market, this is simply not feasible. Used books are not published, they are only available after new textbooks are purchased and then put back into the market as used. From the 2012 College Store Industry Financial Report, new book sales were doube [2.2 times] the amount of used book sales dollars. Unit sales showed similar results. The ratio of new units to used units was 1.5 : 1.
There are multiple factors that limit the total market for used textbooks. Faculty must agree to use the same title from year to year, adoptions must be received in time for stores to obtain used texts; and there had to be sufficient new text sales of the desired titles to come back into the market as used books. While there are basic courses that fit this model, if all college course offerings are considered, it is easier to see where used books could not be a significant option.
Total College Store Market
NACS' estimate of U.S. college store sales was $10.23 billion for the 2010-11 fiscal year. The following graph shows market estimates since 2001-02 with corresponding enrollments in higher education:
Online sales are not yet a significant percentage of purchases at every college store, but the avearge continues to increase. For U.S. stores reporting e-commerce, online sales were an average of 12.4% of total store sales. The increase in median sales made online since 2003 are shown in the following graph:
Based on data from the 2012 Industry Financial Report, total online sales at U.S. college stores for 2010-11 were estimated at $1,044 million. With a "click and mortar" strategy, the college store offers the best of both worlds to students - the convenience of web ordering, paired with:
The National Center for Education Statistics reports a total of 4,495 institutions of higher education in the United States. The majority of higher education institutions [63%] are private colleges or universities, while 37% are public. There is a closer percentage of four-year schools [62%] compared to two-year [38%] colleges or technical schools.
While college students are often referred to by age and student status as a single market, the college market is actually quite diverse, formed from a wide mix of consumers wielding substantial buying power. This market is also diverse geographically.
For many institutions, there are significant differences in total enrollment and the FTE number of students. And while the FTE number of students allows for an "apples-to-apples" comparison between campuses, knowing the corresponding total enrollment for an FTE number puts it in context. A campus and store serving the FTE of 4,000 students and a total enrollment of 4,200 will be significantly different from the campus with the same 4,000 FTE number, but an enrollment of 12,000 students.
Of the 20.4 million college students -
These figures were reported in Almanac 2011-2012, published by The Chronicle of Higher Education, August 26, 2011. To see more information on students and enrollment, go to www.nces.ed.gov/fastfacts
NACS estimates 4,500 college stores provide service to U.S. higher education. There is not a one-to-one relationship between schools and college stores. Larger universities will have several stores to serve students; smaller schools in a local area may be served by a single store; and several schools in an urban community may share multiple retail outlets. While many college stores share a common mission, they vary greatly in size, location, ownership, and customer base.
The largest percentage of college stores are owned or operated by the institution. On-campus stores are mostly institutional, but they may also be operated under contract, as cooperatives, or by student associations. Off-campus stores are typically private businesses.
Sales volume in college stores is determined by many factors, but the major influence on sales seems most closely tied to the size of the institution it serves. Average sales for U.S. college stores were $7.7 million in 2010-11; median sales were half that, at $3.8 million.