by Shawn Simpson
For more than five years, the college’s bookstore was one of a few Apple retailers in the area. Offering the full line of Macintosh, iPad and iPod devices, the bookstore was unique among community colleges.
“It was a really good opportunity at the time for the college,” said Ashawnte Thompson, technology floor leader and buyer for the JCCC Bookstore. “(We were) one of the only community colleges able to carry Apple products. (When we) became one, it was one of the only Apple stores in the area.”
Having the full line of products available at the bookstore allowed students some key benefits.
“People were able to use their financial aid to buy a computer, so if someone was eyeing up a Macbook Pro that started right at $1,000, taking that hit all at once … that’s a pretty heavy pill to swallow, especially for a college-aged student,” Thompson said. “So it was very important if they were interested in that product that they be able to come here to the bookstore and use their financial aid dollars.”
With this apparent benefit to students, why did the bookstore choose to stop carrying Apple products this semester? The answer is surprisingly simple and obvious: It wasn’t financially justified and no longer necessary.
“When we began selling Apple at the college, we were one of the few places that you could come and get that, and Apple allowed us to sell them at the educational discount. Over time, more and more places began to carry Apple products,” Thompson said. “The novelty of going to your local college bookstore and picking up an Apple computer began to fade. People had options to go other places and people could get their discount other places too.”
High-end computer retailers are often plagued with aging inventory that’s difficult to sell, especially when new equipment is constantly being released. In a small-quantity store, that can spell disaster. Contractual obligations require minimum unit purchases regardless of sales within the store.
“Over time we found that we had all this product and people weren’t buying as much. Not only that, but it became abundantly clear that not everyone wanted a high-end computer. There was a wide market of people who wanted a computer for $500 and under, and we wanted to make sure we made a decision that would please everyone.”
That decision was to focus the technology floor’s space and resources on other products that more closely matched what students needed. That decision has provided good results from Thompson’s perspective.
“What I’m enjoying seeing now with customers who come in is they have a set dollar amount to spend and they can get something that’s really nice that’s really affordable and that frees up money for them to get a bag for it or some accessory they need or more materials for their class. It gives them a lot more freedom to make a decision that’s best for them, and we’re seeing a lot more of that now,” Thompson said.
Losing the selection of Apple products does pose some minor hardships for one faculty member who has used the bookstore in the past.
“I haven’t purchased products in the bookstore, but I was able to test things that I was interested in,” said Jim Dice of the athletic department. “I was then able to go online and use the technology website that we had here on campus and purchase through the Apple store. My father-in-law has purchased iPads in the bookstore, though.”
The loss of Apple hasn’t slowed down Jason Workman, a student who recently purchased a Macbook Air through an outside retailer.
“I just bought this (Macbook Air) for school. I have a PC laptop, too, but that thing is huge. This one is much more streamlined.”
It’s important to note that even though the bookstore no longer sells Apple products, students are still able to purchase Apple products with the same discounts through any Apple retailer.
“Wherever Apple products are sold, you can get your student discount. The discount goes from $50 to $200 for laptops and desktops,” Thompson said. “All you’d have to do is go into any Apple retailer with your Johnson County Community College ID to get your discount.”
The bookstore is located on the first floor of the Student Center.