Amazon said it would open a staffed pickup store at the University of Texas at Austin, one of the nation’s largest campuses and a key stronghold in Amazon’s bid to get shoppers while they’re young.
Amazon.com plans to open a staffed pickup store at the University of Texas at Austin, one of the nation’s largest campuses and a key stronghold in Amazon’s battle to get shoppers while they’re young.
The 2,500-square-foot UT store, located in Gregory Gymnasium on the campus, is set to open in the summer. It follows the recent opening of similar locations at Purdue University; the University of Massachusetts, Amherst; the University of California at Berkeley; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and the University of Cincinnati.
Amazon also has struck deals to open locations this year at the University of Pennsylvania and with the University of California at Davis.
But the home of the Longhorns and the distinctive burnt-orange school color is the largest campus Amazon has staked so far.
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The company seems to be banking big on what it calls its “Amazon Campus” initiative. It is hiring dozens of business managers, project managers and software engineers for the effort. In one of the job postings the program is described as “focused on engaging and acquiring college-student customers through physical locations at or near universities.”
Amazon also has a pitch page on its website for universities, in which it describes how students can save money and time by having pickup locations nearby from which to buy and send back books. The pitch also discusses how universities can get revenue by partnering with the company.
The campus initiative builds on Amazon Student, a program the company launched in 2010 to establish connections with college students.
It hires brand ambassadors in colleges, and offers students discounts and a half-price membership for Prime, a loyalty program that includes two-day shipping, video-streaming and other perks.
Amazon has already made a big mark in the business of college retail. Average annual spending on required course materials has fallen to $563 per student in 2014 and 2015 from $701 per student in 2007 and 2008, according to data posted by the National Association of College Stores. Some observers say the decrease is a result of money going to Amazon.
“On the college bookstores, I think clearly you’ve got to take into account the Amazon effect,” John Fallon, the CEO of education-products company Pearson, said in a conference call last month when asked about the drop in college-store spending. “Because clearly what you’re seeing is a lot of students switching from buying through college bookstores to buying through Amazon.”
Amazon’s presence on college campuses also has had an unexpected impact on the smooth running of these institutions. The Daily Campus, the college paper of the University of Connecticut, reported late last year that Amazon orders were causing massive backups in the school’s mailrooms, which weren’t designed to handle the flood of packages. So pickup locations would help avert that problem.
“This partnership with Amazon is one more way that the university is providing value to our campus community,” said Gage Paine, vice president for student affairs at the University of Texas, in a statement. “With the pickup location in the heart of the UT Austin campus, this enhanced service will benefit our students, offering them a convenient and secure place to pick up their merchandise. Faculty and staff will also be able to take advantage of the service.”