Lope Shop a prime stop for Welcome Week

Students and parents load up on merchandise at the Lope Shop during Welcome Week, the busiest week of the year for the campus retailer.

Photos by Ralph Freso

A student worker springs into a golf cart about every 20 minutes to zip to the Lope Shop’s warehouse, weaving in and out of pockets of volunteers and students moving in and families helping students move in.

The mission: to grab merchandise from the warehouse and replenish what flew out the Lope Shop’s doors during Grand Canyon University’s Welcome Week.

“About every $10,000 (of sales), the warehouse team is grabbing product we JUST sold and bringing it over to restock,” said Director of Campus Retail and Licensing Andy Dunn. “It takes about 20 minutes or so to do about $10,000.”

Welcome to Welcome Week at the Lope Shop.

A student and mother look over the popular lavender-colored sweatshirts at the Lope Shop.

For the campus retailer, this week and Family Weekend, which is headed to campus Oct. 7-9, are the no-doubt, hands-down busiest times of the year.

Dunn estimates the store will hit $500,000 to $700,000 of sales this week.

It’s something that boggles his mind after the record-setting Welcome Week sales in 2021.

Looking at the numbers from the Lope Shop and its website, “We are 16% over last year, and last year was the craziest we thought it could be. I thought, ‘What? We’re up again??? No wonder my body hurts so much,’” he said with a laugh.

We are 16% over last year, and last year was the craziest we thought it could be. I thought, 'What? We're up again??? No wonder my body hurts so much.'"

Andy Dunn, Director of Campus Retail and Licensing

In 2021, not only did incoming freshmen load up on T-shirts and lanyards and hoodies aplenty, but so did sophomores.

“We almost had two freshmen classes because there were so many sophomores (during COVID-19) who had done their first year online. Last year was their Welcome Week experience. That’s why it was so crazy,” Dunn said.

“Then this year, we’ve got 9,700 new, incoming freshmen and their parents, and it’s just as crazy.”

So how does the Lope Shop prepare for its no-doubt, hands-down busiest time of the year?

“With a little prayer,” Dunn said, smiling.

And a lot of action.

The Lope Shop team starts to buy product in the late fall and winter.

“In May, June and July, they’re just all coming in. We’re receiving it, staging it and prepping it. Then as we get close to Welcome Week, we reset the store, giving it a whole new fresh look and feel.”

A student loads up on a few GCU-branded T-shirts.

The team aligns its Welcome Week displays to the official Welcome Week theme, which this year is the 1970s, so disco balls and a ’70s-themed window display. You might even find some throwback merchandise for sale with a feel from that era, such as a retro flowers lanyard.

Besides stocking the store, preparations for Welcome Week also mean making sure all the store’s point-of-sale systems are up and running, and then there’s the staffing.

About 40 student workers arrive on campus two weeks before Welcome Week for final cleaning, setting and stocking. During the year, the number of student workers, which are broken up into teams, such as the visual merchandising team and warehouse team, fluctuate between 50 and 60.

“It gives them a chance to get trained, so everybody on the floor is trained and knows what they’re doing,” Dunn said.

The Lope Shop team also brings in volunteers from Grand Canyon Education’s Curriculum Development team to help out.

“It’s nice because it frees up our students to do customer service,” said Shelly Schrimpf, Assistant Director of Campus Retail & Licensing.

Schrimpf added that all the rage at the Lope Shop has been anything lavender colored, particularly the lavender tank tops and sweatshirts with Grand Canyon University splayed across it in tackle twill.

“Lavender is BIG, so anything we get in lavender … and it’s not just for girls, but the young men feel very comfortable in lavender, too,” she said.

While parents are stocking up on their supply of GCU-branded gear during Welcome Week, they are also ordering care packages from the Lope Shop, the first of which will be delivered around Sept. 12.

Besides those lavender-colored best-sellers, the T-shirts that say “Family” on them are moving fast, as are the plastic holders for students’ IDs cards — the Lope Shop has sold 400 of those so far.

Schrimpf said new items to look out for: the cute cow print lanyards and a skin-care line called Higher Education, which includes products such as the Cram Session moisturizer, Pre-Req facial cleanser and MBA retinol serum.

Also new for the Lope Shop are care packages prepared in-house. The campus retailer had partnered with a third party for the past three or four years to create the care packages.

“But we’re offering it in-house this year, so more exciting, more fun stuff, more relevant and just better customer service,” Dunn said of the packages.

They include a bevy of snacks and games, such as puzzles and cards, and are delivered for back-to-school, Halloween, fall finals, Valentine’s Day, Spring Surprise and end-of-year finals. Family members can buy one-off care packages or all six at once if they want.

Almost 850 care packages have been sold so far, and “we’ll probably end up selling over 1,000 care packages by the time we hand them out,” Dunn said.

An assembly team will put them together the week of Labor Day, and on Sept. 12, the first round of care packages will be sent to students.

“It’s very hard work,” said Schrimpf, “but our team is amazing.”

They’ll need that amazing team for the busy academic year to come.

The Lope Shop is always bustling in September for back-to-school, then in October for Family Weekend, Midnight Madness and the online students' Fall Commencement ceremonies. The following month will bring No-Shave November, and the semester will wrap up with the big Five Days of Christmas sales.

A parent looks over the GCU clothing.

Sophomore computer science major Josh Slinkman, a Lope Shop student worker, said it has been a “very busy” week for the store, complete with an AZ Family television news crew dropping in for a live broadcast on Monday.

He added how Welcome Week, besides being a big sales time for the Lope Shop, is just a good time to connect with students and their families as they navigate the campus.

“There was one family who did the drive all the way down from Alaska,” Slinkman said. “I think that’s an insane drive. … From what they told me, it was an almost two-week journey.”

While Welcome Week is exhausting —  Dunn and Schrimpf will put in 60-hour weeks as they look forward to the three-day Labor Day weekend. They say they enjoy the energy and vibe students bring back to the campus, and to the Lope Shop, after a quiet summer without them.

“It’s just amazing to have your community back,” Schrimpf said.

GCU senior writer Lana Sweeten-Shults can be reached at [email protected] or at 602-639-7901.

***

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