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Students impact business

Teresa Fralish | Sunday, August 22, 2004

As if the van-fuls of stereos, clothes, hangers and televisions arriving on campus this weekend weren’t enough, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s students also flock to area stores to pick up other last-minute college essentials. “We gear up for this like we gear up for Christmas,” said Bob Tharp, assistant manager at the Grape Road Meijer store. This weekend, about 10,000 students descend on the Notre Dame campus as well as several thousand more at Saint Mary’s, Bethel College and Indiana University-South Bend. Naturally, the economic impact on the local businesses is one of the year’s biggest.”The impact for our store is incredibly high,” said Scott Giese, assistant manager for the Super Target store on University Park Drive. “Our sales peak this week and early next.”Both Meijer and Target said they began to see students in early August through early September. Tharp said the back-to-college weekend was the store’s second biggest impact period after the Christmas season. Meijer typically begins planning for college move-in weekend several weeks before the majority of students arrive in South Bend. The store stocks up on common dorm room items such as hangers, pillows, sheets and notebooks as well as food items such as bottled water and ramen noodles. “We typically build extra displays,” Tharp said. “Eighty percent of everything in [the] center aisles is for back-to-school.”Tharp also said bakery items had been especially popular this year with parents moving students in. Super Target coordinates its back-to-school strategy at the corporate level and uses sales from the previous year to plan future marketing strategies Giese said. This year, the store sent about 13,000 back-to-school flyers to the Notre Dame campus. In addition to offering potential shoppers plenty of dorm essentials, Meijer also plans a variety of special promotions specifically targeted at college students. “On Saturday we’re going to have karaoke,” said Trish Swartz, back-to-school coordinator for the Grape Road Meijer. “On Sunday we’re going to do our ever-popular goldfish eating contest.”Students seeking convenience also have the option of stopping by the student government-sponsored Fall Mall in the Stepan Center, which offers Notre Dame students a variety of dorm supplies from local stores. Bed, Bath, and Beyond has participated for the last several years, said assistant manager Doug Sibberson. Since the store opened six years ago, Sibberson said his store has seen a gradual increase in the number of students shopping at Bed, Bath and Beyond.