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UA News

Bookstore business not yet leveling off

Headline Photo
MATT CAPOWSKI/Arizona Daily Wildcat

Pre-business freshman Ariana Lutei searches for textbooks Saturday at the UofA Bookstore using a computer. With an online ordering system, students can order books directly through the bookstore's Web site and pick them up the next day at the store's Park Student Union location.

By Daniel Scarpinato

Tuesday August 21, 2001 |

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Record number of online orders helping bookstore cope with textbook rush

The UofA Bookstore, which has seen a major increase in business over the past week due to the start of fall classes, has managed to accommodate much of its business through online orders and extra staff.

Carmen MacNeill, who runs the online ordering program, said the system was first used in 1996 and has become more popular through time.

"Each year it gets better and better, and we see more and more families," she said, explaining that most of the online customers are incoming freshmen.

"We have seen some returning students who found the online ordering so much easier they decided to stick with it," she said.

Brenda Fox, a psychology junior, ordered her books online this year, and said she would do it again in the future.

"It worked really well," she said. "We had to come back a couple times because we switched classes, but we were able to get the books we needed."

Fox said she and her husband went Sunday to pick up their books, but because of the long lines, they left and returned yesterday evening, that time not having to wait at all.

With the online ordering system, which will remain open until Saturday, students order their books through the bookstore's Web site, and 24 hours later the books can be picked up at the store's Park Student Union location.

This year the bookstore, which also sells school and art supply packets over the Internet, expects to sell over 5,000 book orders online.

Nevertheless, the bookstore's University Boulevard location has still seen non-stop business.

More than 40 extra employees were hired to handle the rush the bookstore has felt. The majority are working in the textbook department.

Frank Farias, bookstore director, said business has been steady over the last couple weeks and the traffic in the store has come in phases.

Farias said freshmen and their parents got an early start on their textbook and supply shopping last week when they began moving into the dorms.

Returning students will buy their books this week, while many juniors and seniors familiar with how the system works will wait until next week.

Weeks of planning have allowed the staff to keep lines down to a 10-minute wait, Farias said.

He also said wider walkways between shelves and higher ceilings in the textbook department have allowed foot traffic to move at a faster rate as compared to the old bookstore.

Sean Casey, an undeclared sophomore, said he was not impressed with the differences.

"It looks the same as the old bookstore to me," he said. "I didn't notice that many differences."

Casey said his wait in line was only seven minutes, but the bookstore did not have one of the texts he needed because it had sold out of the books for that class.

Cindy Hawk, manager of the textbook department, said the store runs out of texts for various reasons.

She said this year's record enrollment has made it difficult to get the number of books needed when competing with many other universities for the texts.

"We have instructors giving us their booklists today," Hawk said. "That makes it extremely difficult to get them to the students on time."

Hawk said there is no telling how long it might take to get book orders in when they are placed this late.

Another change Farias said has helped speed up shoppers is that students are no longer required to check their book bags at the door because of the addition of a new, state-of-the-art security system.

Ed Schoeler, head of security for the bookstore, said there are 10 times more cameras in the new store than in the old bookstore.

"There are a lot less blind areas then before," Schoeler said.

The system allows the officers to apprehend potential thieves before they can walk out with merchandise.

Security officers can zoom in on any customer with the video cameras and follow them all over the store.

Farias said the store does not profile customers, but the cameras do allow them to recognize suspicious activity and cut down on robberies.

"The bookstore has a far more critical role in the university than years ago, and is much more diverse," Farias said, pointing out that the bookstore is one of the first things freshmen and their parents experience at the university.

Hawk said the beginning of semester rush normally lasts until Labor Day, after which the stores' business levels should level off again.


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