Comparison shows Coffman prices often higher

A bookstore manager said less purchasing power means higher prices for the store.

Derrick Biney

With tuition costs increasing each year, money can be tight and some students look elsewhere besides the University bookstores to purchase school supplies.

First-year mass communication studies student Shonit Jain said he goes to chain supply stores to get supplies because he knows they are less expensive than at Coffman Union bookstore.

Click image to view .pdf of chart

“I could get any item in the store for a lower price at Target, Best Buy or Wal-Mart,” Jain said.

In a comparison between the Coffman Union bookstore and large stores, such as Best Buy, OfficeMax, Target and Wal-Mart, items that are essential for students, such as notebooks, pens, paper and other products, were found to be marked up in price.

This chart is a list of 10 items many students will use at some point in their college careers. The compared prices are representative of the in-store prices for the items. Select stores have special online prices for certain items, especially electronics products.

James Kyle, general merchandise buyer manager for the Coffman bookstore, said the bookstore does not guarantee students the lowest price on items, but it does ensure they will have things students need in stock.

“There are some things that we will never be lower in price than big box stores,” Kyle said.

The reasons for the marked up prices stem from the bookstore’s “purchasing power,” which Kyle said cannot be compared to supply chains.

Carlson School of Management professor of marketing and logistics Mark Bergen said supply chains are able to purchase greater quantities and get better deals on products than small businesses such as the bookstore because of their brand name.

He said a major company can make only a nickel on a product without it hurting their business, he said.

A lot of the strategies you see in pricing deal more with the manufacturer than it would with the retailer, Bergen said, and vary from product to product.

First-year mechanical engineering student Andrew Carlson said he gets all his school supplies from Sam’s Club because he can buy things in bulk.

Because he has a car, he can shop off campus, which is a privilege some students may not have, he said.

Khadra Hashi, a first-year General College student, said she shops at the University bookstores for convenience.

Everything she would need for class is there, and being that financial aid covers her educational expenses, the prices for supplies and books are not really an issue for her, she said.