Lope Shop adjusts to new logo, greater demands for Welcome Week

Tanesha Josephs shows a sweatshirt to her freshman son as they shop at the Lope Shop on the first day of Welcome Week.

Photos by Ralph Freso

Shelly Schrimpf has prepared for Welcome Week at Grand Canyon University since January, attending trade shows for college bookstores and campus shops as GCU’s Assistant Director of Campus Retail and Licensing.

But Welcome Week 2023 has thrown in a few twists.

Lope Shops Operations Manager Garrett Miller calmly declared “all hands on deck” a week before the first two days of Welcome Week generated steady sales. The goal? To match the 30,500 pieces of merchandise sold during the five-day period before the start of the 2022 fall semester.

There already was a buzz. Sales for the first three weeks of August were up by 5%, said Andy Dunn, Director of Campus Retail and Licensing.

And there’s trendy merchandise for students and parents arriving on campus for the first time since the 2023 spring semester ended.

For starters, the “speed GCU” logo was unveiled in late June and is printed on many brands of clothing and accessories.

Second, GCU is celebrating its 75th anniversary with a book and attire with “75” inscribed on merchandise ranging from polo shirts to coffee tumblers.

Finally, parents have more options, too, when ordering care packages for their children in need of a diversion from their studies.

Christine Leto browses through the Lope Shop on the first day of Welcome Week.

In preparation for the heavy foot traffic – particularly during the noon-to-2 p.m. hours, Miller split his staff into two sets of 12 employees working 6 ½-hour shifts, an essential move because of the increased volume expected and the expanded weekday hours from 8 a.m. to 7 p.m, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.

The floor staff prepared for their shifts by dancing to “Cotton Eye Joe” prior to taking the floor. The tradition was started a few years ago by former student employee Briana Gonzales – now the Visual Merchandise manager – who plays the song in her cubicle and joins in the dancing in front of shelves stacked with merchandise.

The GCU Curriculum Development Design team volunteered as baggers and assisted with the dressing rooms.

The extra help led to shorter wait in lines that once extended to the alumni section of the rectangular shaped store and took as long as 15 minutes to complete purchases.

Distribution Center Manager Abigail Nevitt took care of essential items, such as register tape and merchandise bags, as early as March.

Thanks to a well-organized operation at the 7,000-square-foot distribution center, students and parents didn’t need to panic in the case of a shortage of their preferred apparel.

Once $10,000 of merchandise is sold, it is replaced by a pick list featuring similar goods that are transferred from the distribution center to the Lope Shop.

Each piece of merchandise is counted carefully and logged into the computer system for immediate sale or hung on an arm of one of an endless number of storage hangers in the distribution center.

Schrimpf, who has been involved in buying for 23 years, alerts Miller, Nevitt and assistant Sean Fanning during the summer of “special buys,” and Gonzales adjusts inventory based on sales numbers and when certain items sell at a peak time.

Lope Shop Operations Manager Garrett Miller and Visual Merchandise Manager Briana Gonzales display some of the new GCU apparel at the Lope Shop.

During the noon-to-2 p.m. window Monday, the Lope Shop sold about 1,000 items that generated $22,318 in revenue – more than double what the retailer produced in the store’s first four hours.

The staff was on alert for “Mama Lope” and “Papa Lope” T-shirts, the highest selling item during Welcome Week.

“And even though we're restocking every two to three hours, they're still selling out within an hour,” Schrimpf said.

The front of the Lope Shop featured tables stacked with sweatshirts featuring the new GCU logo, and plenty of clothes racks are filled with polo shirts and T-shirts with the new logo.

“We like the new logo,” said Quentin Leighty, whose wife, Angela, held a bag containing shirts and tank tops for themselves and their daughter Anna, a GCU student.

“I did notice there was a lot more stuff,” Angela added.

Tees account for 52% of the top five sellers, said Dunn, so volume and presentation are essential to maintain the satisfaction of customers.

Lope Shop Assistant Director of Campus Retail and Licensing Shelly Schrimpf displays a new tumbler celebrating the 75th Anniversary of GCU during a Team Time meeting about new merchandise for Welcome Week.

Welcome Week also attracts a lot of parents, which means the Lope Shop will carry more Nike Dri-FIT polos to satisfy the preferences of parents, while kids tend to lean more toward the Dri-FIT cotton shirts.

Those customers looking for lavender will need to wait until at least next month, when four pieces of Nike attire arrive.

“Lavender is huge,” Schrimpf said. “They’re going to go fast.”

Jennifer Follis, a GCU admissions counselor based in Oregon and Southwest Washington, said she would wait for the lavender polos. Follis noticed the Lope Shop was at the top of its game for crowds during the noon-2 p.m. hour than in past Welcome Weeks.

“A lot smoother,” Follis said.

Parents will be delighted to learn care packages have expanded from three to eight, with energy and nut-free options added.

Another perk is the addition of fidget items, such as stress balls that help students through the grind of study and test-prep time, said E-commerce Manager Joe Stringer.

The Lope Shop elected to operate the care package program in-house, working with GCU’s marketing department on an email program that allows the parents and guardians of first-year students to order online and for students to pick them up after providing an email confirmation.

In addition to organizing customer lines and restocking hangers, Dunn provides support to parents struggling to say goodbye to their children for the first time.

“I’ve done this so many years that I can tell when there's a dad or mother who's struggling saying goodbye,” Dunn said. " ... You can see some of them quiver by their lips, other times they're just super excited.”

He just interacts with them as much as he can, "to make sure they're doing OK."

GCU Senior Writer Mark Gonzales can be reached at [email protected]


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