Bob Daggett

Jim Sykes

Retail: Love It?

Corrections or additions?

This article by Dina Weinstein was prepared for the October 25,

2000 edition of U.S. 1 Newspaper. All rights reserved.

U-Store: Keeping the Colors

by Dina Weinstein

It’s a little bit of Macy’s, a little bit of Urban

Outfitters, a little bit of Radio Shack, a little bit of Barnes &

Noble, a little bit of CVS, and a whole lot of orange and black. At

Princeton University, the campus bookstore — the Princeton


store — has just completed a $2 million renovation aimed at


a brighter atmosphere, a better layout, and more merchandise.


at the 40,000-square-foot store at 36 University Place, known as the

"U-Store," hopes the changes create a more inviting location

for the community to shop as well.

"We did research in 1997 on how people felt about the set up of

the store and what they wanted," says James R. Sykes, the U-Store

president and CEO. "We asked students, staff, faculty, alumni,

and townspeople. And the results were that nobody knew what was inside

the store. There were a lot of walls."

This summer the store shut down and construction workers knocked down

those walls to create big spaces. Merchandise is situated to create

a "race track" layout, leading customers in a circular pattern

around the store, exposing them to more products. Administrative


stockrooms, and the receiving area have been moved to the basement.

Apparel is on the second floor, as before, but books have been moved

from the first to the third floor. Items for campus living went from

the basement to the first floor.

Sykes, who has headed the institution for four years, says the board

of directors realized a renovation was long overdue when they


candidates for the CEO’s job and heard every one of them recommend

drastic changes. "It really became apparent to them that the store

was run down," says Sykes. The store faced that problem in


to the common retailing challenge of competition (especially from

big box bookstores on Route 1), and it had other special


imposed by the university.

Sykes was offered a quick fix when he had been on the

job only two weeks. In October, 1996, Barnes & Noble approached

him, asking if he would like the chain to run the campus store as

they do at a number of colleges. Barnes & Noble claimed it would have

generated hundreds of thousands of additional dollars per year, says

Sykes. But after four months the board rejected the offer, thinking

it could be more responsive to local control and interests. "The

ability to make the store unique to Princeton was more highly valued

than the money," Sykes says. "Rather than having a chain


we could tailor the assortment to Princeton."

The Princeton University Store has been in business since 1905. It

is a co-op with the mission to serve the needs of the Princeton campus

and the larger Princeton community. It claims to be Princeton’s


independent bookstore, and it is downtown Princeton’s only department

store. To its advantage, it even has its own free parking lot directly

across the street. Its board of trustees has some Princeton University

students among its members. Anyone who belongs to the U-Store


which includes anyone who has ever been a student, gets discounts.

Sykes says there are 50,000 members and currently about 10,000 active

members, half of them students.

U-Store research showed that both students and townspeople wanted

to shop close to home for the things that the U-Store offers —

textbooks, cosmetics, trade books, computer books, computers,


clothing, greeting cards, medication, stationery, and Princeton


insignia clothing.

With the convenience of both the students and townspeople in mind,

the store has two entrances, one from the campus and one from


Place, and each entrance caters to a different group. In this way,

the renovation attempts to reach out to a greater audience but keeps

its roots firmly in its mission to serve and represent Princeton


"The students wanted us to sell food and such," says Sykes.

"And they wanted that to be in operation for longer than our


hours. (which are 9-9 Monday through Saturday, 11-5 on Sunday) That’s

how the U2 section came about. It’s like a mini-WaWa."

The U2 convenience store is located in the rear of the U-Store’s first

floor — the campus level. It is stocked with snack foods and


foods from Olive’s Gourmet Deli on Witherspoon Street. A wall can

close off the rest of the U-Store from the 1,500 square foot U2 so

that section can stay open until 2 a.m. "Students keep late


Sykes explains.

Beyond U2, the campus level addresses the needs of those living in

dormitories: casual inexpensive furniture and accessories, computers

and software, CDs, a pharmacy, health & beauty aids, school supplies,

art supplies, greeting cards, and more.

When customers enter from University Place, they see floor one (campus

level) and floor two, with its bright display of Princeton University

insignia products. A Clinique make-up counter sits centrally. Men’s

and women’s ready-to-wear are in the rear on mezzanines. Both of those

departments are well stocked with Levi’s jeans. For women, there are

Urban Outfitter and Esprit brand togs. For men there is formal and

casual clothing.

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Bob Daggett

The U-Store’s Pasadena-based architectural firm, Kremer, Shipp, and

Daggett, specializes in college store design. Bob Daggett describes

the U-Store as possessing a specialty department store look. "We

knew the design would have to appeal to a larger taste," says

Daggett. "Also there would have to be a worldly look to the store.

An adult would have to be comfortable shopping here."

While an exciting combination, the university’s orange and black


screamed Halloween to Daggett. He felt pressure to use it, and he

did use orange-laminated counters in the student-centered campus


but not in the parts of the store that are supposed to appeal to


"Those are not good colors to put as a background to


Daggett says. "So we used black and orange as accents. In the

backgrounds we used soft and traditional colors. The result is


quite sophisticated like you would find in Neiman Marcus or Lord &

Taylor. Emulating those models is a good thing in retail because the

average shopper is female. And women are more sensitive to color,

texture and pattern."

Books are the focus of floor three with, on average, 50,000 titles

including textbooks, tradebooks and magazines, and the number one

best seller is "Elements of Style" by Strunk and White. The

book area, says Sykes, is the real showpiece of the remodeling job.

Window seats take advantage of the views overlooking the university’s

Blair Arch. "In our study, people said they knew what they wanted

for the book area," Sykes says. "They wanted someplace


where friends could congregate and enjoy books."

"It is an academic, library type environment," says Daggett.

"The dark wood, leather chairs and green carpet add to that."

Next year, at the University Place entrance, he plans to chop a hole

in the third floor so patrons can get visual access to where the books


Sykes also added to marketing director Virginia France’s budget.


says the "small" budget is standard for the industry and


approximately 2.5 percent of the estimated $10 million revenue in

sales. While the store wants to be inviting to townspeople, its print

advertising budget is limited.

But France’s department has expanded to include both a graphics


and someone whose sole job is to coordinate events, John Takacs. Those

who come to hear authors will, Takacs hopes, return to shop at the

U-Store. He is bringing in six to eight authors a month, many with

a Princeton connection, and is also staging musical evenings and


events. On Thursday, November 9, look for New Jersey US Senator Robert

Torricelli and on Monday, November 20, Dr. Ruth Westheimer and her

"Guide to College Life."

Much of the U-Store’s marketing is slanted to the U-Store’s web site

(, where shoppers can purchase over 500,000 text book

and trade book titles and Princeton brand products. Students can get

their purchases packaged and waiting for them at the store or


to their dorm rooms.

Sykes says the U-Store is poised help students and townspeople avoid

the shlep to malls and other booksellers. Micawber Books store owner

Logan Fox says his store noted an increase in traffic this summer

when the U-Store was closed down for construction. Now it’s not clear

how the humanities-focused independent book seller with about 50,000

new and used titles will fare.

Micawber does seem to have the advantage of its location in the middle

of town on Nassau Street, across from the university. But for the

book lover who also wants to shop for music and/or drink coffee, Route

1 leads the way to heaven and the big book sellers, Borders Books

Music Cafe at Nassau Park and Barnes & Noble at MarketFair.

It’s definitely one-stop-shopping at these big box stores when it

comes to books, periodicals, events, and music. Both sponsor a


of events — book discussion groups, author readings, music and

story time for children, educators nights, writers groups, and live

music performances.

"That’s great that the U-Store was renovated," says Nancy

Nicholson, Barnes & Noble community outreach coordinator. "We

love the U-Store and we feel like they’re our neighbors. But I don’t

view them as competition. Books are like theater. When people are

exposed to theater, they tend to see more."

"We accept the fact that we can never have as many titles as


& Noble," says Sykes. "We’re more academic. We don’t have

as much fiction and romance, but we do have best sellers."

Top Of Page
Jim Sykes

The oldest of three children, Sykes grew up with retail

talk around the dinner table in Seattle, where his father worked in

a department store. He was an economics major at the University of

Washington, Class of 1978, and previously worked at a regional


store in Seattle, a start-up children’s chain store, and Belk’s, a

large independent department store chain, generally focused on


and young adult merchandise. At Belk’s, he was divisional merchandise

manager, responsible for more than 240 stores.

Children’s merchandisers really operate a "store within a


says Sykes. Not only do they sell clothes, but they also sell books

and educational games and gifts. "It taught me to be able to look

at different businesses and see them as a whole."

"The U-Store is intellectually stimulating — dealing with

all kinds of requirements and different kinds of peaks and


says Sykes. Apparel has one set of rules but books are completely

different and electronics and convenience are yet again different.

He and his wife, Vicky, have three children, and she works from their

Newtown home as regional marketing manager of Carter’s Children’s

Wear. Their oldest son is a freshman music education major at the

University of Illinois, and Sykes says that taking his son to college

"gave me a whole new perspective on the college experience,


the bookstore as a parent, buying souvenirs, and buying for the dorm


Sykes has spent money on technology; he beefed up the computers in

management offices and added Price Look Up (PLU) scanning plus a


credit card approval system. U-Store consumers can look forward to

additional renovations such as better lighting, a copy shop, another

elevator, a film processing center, and a coffee bar on the book


But Sykes is also following the board’s mandate to make this store

look like it belongs in Princeton. Four columns rise from the basement

to the third floor, and in the next couple of months these columns

will be arrayed with Princetoniana. "They will be outposts of

celebrating what goes on in Princeton," says Sykes, "and they

will change every six months or so."

On the book floor, the columns will showcase Jeff Bezos (Princeton

’86 and founder of, Albert Einstein, and poet C.K.


The initial column displays on the second floor will highlight four

of the women’s athletic teams. The first floor’s columns will focus

on activities on the campus, such as the new Frist campus center and

the graduate school’s centennial celebration.

"Our objective is that, when you walk in the store and look


you will feel that you are at Princeton rather that any other


says Sykes. "That is an important component of what we are trying

to achieve."

— Dina Weinstein

Princeton University Store, 36 University Place,

Princeton 08540. James Sykes, president. 609-921-8500; fax,


Home page:

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Retail: Love It?

For those who think they might want a retail job, Quaker

Bridge Mall is having a job fair on Saturday, October 28, from noon

to 5 p.m. at the mall on Route 1. Admission is free. Call 609-799-8177

for information.

The title, "Take This Job and Love It," refers to how people

with retail jobs really do like what they do, says Felicia Pollaro,

the mall’s marketing manager. "It’s an opportunity to meet the

people you would be working with in a more relaxed setting," she

says. "You can find out why the manager of Chick-Fil-A loves his

job, and why you may love working there, too."

Retailers at the mall asked the owner, the Krafco Company, to sponsor

the fair because they want to have their stores fully staffed. The

mall has four anchors — Macy’s, Lord & Taylor, Sears, and JC


and more than 120 shops and restaurants.

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