Bookstore prepares for increased needs on game day
Courtney Becker | Friday, October 28, 2016
There are several destination locations on Notre Dame’s campus during a home football weekend, including Notre Dame Stadium, the Grotto and the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, that are a priority for any visiting home or away fans interested in buying Notre Dame merchandise. Director of the Hammes Bookstore retail operations David Werda said this demand can increase the bookstore’s productivity by as much as 100 percent.
“During a home football weekend, we are in the neighborhood of 12 to 15,000 transactions per hour,” Werda said. “On a non-football weekend — let’s just say the Saturday of fall break — it could be as few as 500 transactions in the entire day. We move upward of 50,000 units of merchandise on a football Saturday alone.”
Werda said the bookstore measures these statistics starting as early as Wednesday of a home football week due to the number of fans who arrive on campus early in the week.
“A football weekend for us is really defined as Wednesday through Sunday,” he said. “What’s really interesting about Notre Dame, and Notre Dame fans and the opponents that Notre Dame play, is they all travel really well to South Bend. … It is not unlikely for us to see fans from an opposing team or Notre Dame fans from an opposing team’s town as early as Wednesday.”
Dashelle Angel, a cashier at the bookstore, said the number of people in the bookstore at peak times during a football weekend can make it difficult to help every customer in a timely manner, a priority for the bookstore staff.
“It’s very hectic here,” Angel said. “[The most challenging part is] trying to get to every customer, and that’s the No. 1 rule here. Get every customer and make them satisfied by just getting their order right.”
Part of getting a customer’s order right involves having every size of clothing and other types of merchandise available at all times, which Werda said the bookstore management ensures by carefully planning the flow of merchandise into the bookstore well in advance of the football season.
“We’re selling a lot of merchandise so the flow of merchandise into the Notre Dame retail operations … is planned over a year in advance,” he said. “Our team of buyers and planners procure products from those vendors — right now we’re already looking at fall of 2017. … We’re starting to plan the flow of that merchandise into the store because that product is cut and sown, it’s decorated and so it’s not just a point-and-click order, there are a lot of moving parts and pieces.”
Werda said factors such as the football schedule itself could affect how much product the bookstore receives during a certain month.
“If you think about this season, in particular, where we had three home games back-to-back-to-back in the month of September, there’s no time in between those games to flow product into the store for a game so that product needs to be landed in advance of those games,” Werda said. “The month of August, for example, becomes a very critical month for us as we bring product in from various vendors.”
One other important aspect of a football weekend the bookstore management keeps in mind is the movement of crowds in the bookstore, Werda said.
“We spend a great deal of time talking about the flow of people through the building,” he said. “Much like going to the Grotto, and going to see Touchdown Jesus and going to the stadium itself, the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore is very much a part of that experience, and so we move a lot of people through the bookstore.”
Werda said the bookstore management controls this by specifically placing popular products such as The Shirt in areas where they will benefit the flow of traffic rather than impeding movement.
“Anything and everything in the bookstore … can alter the direction of traffic and the flow of people,” he said. “At this point The Shirt has become something where people are coming to get The Shirt. It’s part of the game day experience. Placement of The Shirt … often presents a problem because so many people want The Shirt that at times it causes congestion.”
The bookstore’s busier moments during football weekends vary due to factors such as opponent, game time and weather, Werda said, but the business consistently sees peak crowds just a few hours before kickoff.
“When there’s a West Coast crowd that comes in, the day tends to shift later because of the fact that they’re a West Coast crowd arriving later in the day and, [because of] the time change, they’re thinking that it’s earlier for them,” Werda said. “Generally speaking the three hours before a game are our peak time. … Day games differ greatly from night games and weather impacts everything significantly.”
Despite all the necessary components of stocking merchandise and managing crowds, Werda said, the most important aspect of being prepared for a home football game is making sure there are enough staff members to help bookstore customers.
“The people piece of it is probably the biggest one in terms of staffing,” he said. “We start [hiring for seasonal positions] well in advance … in order for us to execute the 12 to 15,000 transactions per hour on a football weekend.”
Angel said she and the other Hammes Bookstore cashiers do everything they can to make a fan’s experience at the bookstore enjoyable.
“We try to carry on conversations, try to get to learn more about them and have them come back,” she said. “Here we are family and we want that to keep going and we don’t want any bad reviews at all. … Just come visit us because we love the atmosphere of people.”
Werda said this attitude stems from the bookstore staff’s desire to enhance the Notre Dame experience for any fans visiting campus.
“[The Hammes] Notre Dame [Bookstore] isn’t just a regular retail store,” he said. “It’s more than just selling products, it’s about providing an experience. We’re not just training people on how to run a register or how to stock a sales floor, we’re training people on how to provide that true Notre Dame experience to those guests that are traveling from all over the country to a game.”
Not only does the bookstore staff work hard to ensure fans have a good visit to the bookstore, but Angel has also discovered these experiences can be just as enjoyable for the bookstore staff as they are for customers.
“Jon Bon Jovi’s son went here and I actually met [Bon Jovi],” she said. “I’m a fangirl of Jon Bon Jovi. I literally passed out and they woke me up and I said, ‘Can I get an autograph?’”