UNCA bookstore feels the heat of competing online companies

Karen Lopez
News Staff Writer
[email protected]
UNC Asheville’s campus bookstore sells to nearly 4,000 students on campus, however, not everyone purchases products sold at the bookstore due to its high prices.
Tia Patterson, a junior psychology student at UNC Asheville, said many school supplies at the bookstore are affordable, but prices on items for personal needs prove to be less so.
“Those are the things where the bookstore gets you because they are more expensive,” said 19-year-old Patterson. “I bought a small box of tissues at the bookstore for $5 when at another store a whole tissue box is about $2.”
Patterson said she buys at the campus bookstore when she needs to, as it remains closer and more convenient.
“The bus schedules don’t match with our weekday schedules, so we only have time to go out on the weekends and even then the buses close at a certain time,” Patterson said.  
McCabe Milton, UNCA bookstore manager, said Harris Teeter and other large stores order merchandise in large orders. The more these companies order, the cheaper the prices. They pass on these cheap prices to customers and help them save more money.
“We have to deal with the prices that the distributors are giving to us and they are going to base those prices and discounts based on how much we order at once,” Milton said.
The customer volume leads the bookstore to order in smaller quantities to avoid products from expiring.
Hunter Green, a junior student, said academic books at the college bookstore are highly expensive. He occasionally buys books from the bookstore because of convenience, as he doesn’t have to wait for shipping.
“Some books online are about the same price as the book store, but other books can be a huge difference,” said 20-year-old Green.
Green said he once saved about $50 or $60 by purchasing a book online rather than in the bookstore.
Milton said the UNCA bookstore created a program to help students save money. The bookstore is promoting a price match program. Students can price match books with Barnes and Noble, Chegg, Amazon and others.
“If the company is selling a book for $50 and we are selling it for a $100 then the bookstore will still charge $100, but we will give the students a gift card back for $50,” said  29-year-old Milton.
With the gift card students are able to buy anything from the bookstore such as clothing, snacks or other books.
Milton said it is difficult for the bookstore to compete with the person-to-person book sales. Distributors and sellers on Amazon simply want to get rid of their college textbooks, therefore their prices remain cheaper.
He said Amazon buys books from people and students for cheap, therefore their books online sell for a cheaper price.
“Our prices are based on the price that we originally bought the book for. We have standard markup for all of the merchandise like candy and clothes,” Milton said. “We buy from someone and we apply a standard markup that is across every retail store in the world.
The bookstore buys books and merchandise from a seller and pays their price, then creates a price for students. This prices has to be enough for the bookstore to make profit.
“We do the gift card because theoretically, I would be losing money. If I bought the book for $80 and sell it to students for $100 and a student comes in with a price match of $50, then I would lose $30,” Milton said.
Students show the price match on their mobile phone without having to bring a physical print out.
Milton said students have been confused about price match, as they bring price matches from Amazon vendors.
“Students must be aware that the price match book must only be sold and fulfilled by Amazon,” Milton said.
The campus bookstore’s price matches work for used, rental-for-rental, buy-for-buy and new-for-new books with matching ISBN numbers.
The gift card does not expire. It can be used to pay for other books in future semesters and students are able to save money with this program, Milton said.