University Bookstore ranks in profits, used books

UCLA finished first in profits in the nationwide survey.
Stacks of used food science textbooks are on sale at the University Bookstore. A recent study named the bookstore No. 1 in used books offered to students.

University Bookstore ranked second in overall profit and first in percentage of used books sold to students in a nationwide survey conducted by Large Stores Group earlier this month.

The survey used sales statistics from fiscal year 2008, the last year University Bookstore was located in Brady Commons before making the switch to the student center. According to the Large Stores Group Web site, 86 four-year universities with at least $9 million in annual revenue were included in the rankings.

University Bookstore finished second only to the University of California-Los Angeles in total profits.

"It's interesting that a Midwest bookstore can be so competitive when you're going up against schools like UCLA," Student Auxiliary Services spokeswoman Michelle Froese said. "It speaks highly of our own bookstore to see that we can."

Froese said sales of particular merchandise especially contributed to the bookstore's profits.

"Our most profitable items are clothing and gift items," Frose said. "They're not too labor intensive, whereas computers and electronic devices usually require a lot of staff."

Frose said the main factor for the bookstore's high profits is finding the right gross margin.

"If it's too high, you're not going to sell anything," Froese said. "If it's too low, you're not making any money. I think we're successful because we find the right balance."

Bookstores for the University of Texas, Arizona State University, Brigham Young University and the University of Minnesota rounded out the top five in the percentage of used books sold. Froese said MU's bookstore had finished high in the survey's rankings in past years but never first.

"We've been in the top 10 for a few years, and we were in second for a couple years, but this is the first time we've been named No. 1," Froese said.

Froese cited statistics from 2009 as proof of University Bookstore's more than average used book sales.

"Of all of the course books we sell in fiscal year, the percentage of used to new books is higher than any other store in LSG survey," Froese said. "In fiscal year 2009, our used book percentage was 40.5 percent. The LSG national average is 28.3 percent."

Froese said making more used books available to students is a priority for the bookstore.

"We have no control over prices of new textbooks — there's nothing we can do about them," Froese said. "But we can offer used books at a cheaper price."

The Missouri Students Association passed legislation in December promoting the purchasing of used books.

"The resolution just showed that we had looked into it and that there were obvious advantages of buying used books for students," said Macy Pruitt, MSA Academic Affairs committee vice chairman. "They're just generally cheaper — almost always cheaper — and that's something that I think students should care about and should take advantage of."

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