Case Study: Edinboro University

Rental is the hot topic in the textbook industry right now. But, many stores don't explore the option because they're concerned returns will not only be a hassle but also an extra cost to their operation. MBS' rental return at buyback feature, however, has alleviated both issues for college stores across the country.

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Rental Return Reduces Hassle and Increases Retention Rate

Option benefits students

A seamless integration with MBS' text applications allows rental textbooks to be returned directly at the buyback counter, saving valuable time for both store and students. Because books are flagged for rental on the back end at the beginning of the semester, buyers simply swipe each student's ID to allow for rental validation on any title scanned during the buyback transaction.

Ray Fisher, manager of Edinboro University Campus Bookstore, observed this process firsthand at his most recent buy.

"We found the rental return feature to be very beneficial," he explained. "It's quick, easy and it allows us to efficiently track the number of returns that we have done as well as how many we still need to do. Most notably, combining buyback and rental returns is more convenient for the students because everything is done in a single transaction."

Rentals leads to revenue

While Fisher expected that the feature would simplify his buy, he didn't realize the positive financial impact it could have on his store. Although his overall buyback numbers were down, Fisher found that the number of textbooks his store retained was significantly higher, an effect he attributes to the system feature.

"My buyers actually handled more physical books this semester using the feature compared to the previous year when we only did buyback," he said. "The more books we rent, the more come back to our store, so being able to do rental returns at the buyback counter is a huge plus."

In the spring of 2011, for example, the store sold 22,710 textbooks during rush, including 200 rental books in a pilot program. At their buyback, they purchased 8,651 of those books back, equating to a 38% retention rate.

"The number one reason I was afraid to do rentals was because of returns," he explained. "The securing credit card feature at the MBS POS helped eliminate some of my initial fears, because I could charge those that didn't return their books by our deadline. While we didn't get all of our rentals back, we were able to recoup the majority of that money and minimize potential loss. Once, I was comfortable with how the system worked, I was ready to expand my rental program."

The more I rent, the higher my retention rate. When we have more books come back, it's a win-win. for everyone!

— Ray Fisher

One year later, Fisher's experience was completely different while accepting rental returns at the buyback counter. At the beginning of the semester, the store had expanded their program and rented 2,611 textbooks. Their overall textbook sales and buyback were down, but despite the decrease, the store handled more total books — taking into account both buyback and rental returns — and their retention rate rose significantly again.

"Even though we sold fewer textbooks, our retention rate was 44%, which is a 6% increase over the previous year," Fisher said. "Plus, only 9% of rentals weren't returned by the due date, which decreased to 3% after securing credit cards were charged for non-returns; that's pretty impressive. I was able to recoup all of my money and still make revenue on the program."

According to Fisher, this turnaround will only grow if he continues to expand his rental program.

"The best way to reverse the trend of losing business is to rent even more books," he explained. "In the past, I would estimate that we were only buying books from about 40% of students. With rental returns at buyback, we're able to buy from additional students who probably weren't included in that original percentage."

"The upfront savings of our rental program attracts those who may have bought elsewhere and allows our store to retain more books, and therefore, more business," he continued. "Because they're already in the store returning rentals, they're more likely to sell back their other books out of convenience; it allows us to expand our market share."

With this realization, Fisher plans to expand his program further this fall.

"I hope to rent 5,000 books this semester," he said. "The more I rent, the higher my retention rate. When we have more books come back, it's a win-win for everyone!"

About Edinboro University:

  • FTE: More than 9,000
  • Serves undergrad and postgrad students in Edinboro, Pennsylvania
  • Rental retained a significantly higher number of textbooks despite lower buyback numbers

About MBS Systems Rental:

  • Gives stores the ability to view both the rental and purchase price from the register
  • Ability to manage multiple vendors' quotes and books all in the same place
  • Enables stores create student accounts at POS
  • Can print rental terms and conditions directly on your store receipts