Big boxes bulk up on college campuses

Target and other major retailers seek to capture share of college market
By: | September 3, 2019
Publix, a popular grocery chain in the southeastern U.S., operates a store on the University of South Florida campus in Tampa.Publix, a popular grocery chain in the southeastern U.S., operates a store on the University of South Florida campus in Tampa.

Target will open another three smaller versions of its big-box stores on and around college campuses this fall, bringing the number of higher ed-based Target stores to nearly two dozen, the retailer says.

Not surprisingly, the company stocks these stores with products geared toward college students who live on and off campus. Target will open stores at the University of Kentucky, Michigan State University and the University of Washington in Seattle, Supermarket News reports.

Target’s move coincides with a trend of other major retailers opening locations on and around college campuses. Trader Joe’s, Urban Outfitters, and Publix, a large grocery chain in the southeastern U.S., have opened stores at colleges and universities, BuzzFeed News reports.

Walmart in January 2019 reopened a 3,371-square-foot store at the University of Arkansas, but in June, closed its store at Arizona State University in Tempe.

In North Carolina, several colleges and universities have opened surplus stores, offering students discounts on used equipment from campus departments, reports WTVD, an ABC affiliate.

Whether these major retail outlets complement or threaten the traditional campus store may still be unclear. What is clear is that many traditional college stores are enhancing services to win over more campus customers.


Read more from UB: Higher ed retail—More in store


“Stores have to reinvent their economic model going forward,” National Association of College Stores CEO Robert Walton told UB last year. “It’s a continuous pressure.”

Campus stores across the country are hosting more social activities, such as stress-reduction events during finals week. They’re also offering loyalty rewards programs, and shifting inventories to branded merchandise and apparel as textbook sales slip.