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Mega Parking Deck Hosts Mega Retail Spot

Mega Parking Deck Hosts Mega Retail Spot

THE ULTIMATE ONE-STOP SHOP: At the University of Arkansas' new retail emporium, customers can pay for a range of purchases at a common checkout point

It is reputedly the largest parking deck in the state of Arkansas, with nine levels and 2,149 spaces. The Harmon Avenue Parking Facility on the Fayetteville campus of the University of Arkansas is designed to ease parking congestion, but it also provides an opportunity for campus retail operators to intercept customers at a point where it may most be most convenient for them to shop for goods and services.

Hence, the Parking Spot, a 2,000-sq.ft. retail emporium. Although technically a branch operation of the campus bookstore, the parking spot is in reality one of the most comprehensive convenience retailing operations on any college campus in the country. Besides purchasing textbooks, customers at the Parking Spot can

  • grab a gourmet coffee or other hot or cold beverage
  • get a fresh packaged sandwich or salad, snack or sweet
  • rent a DVD
  • drop off or pick up dry cleaning
  • ship a package
  • process digital photos
  • buy school supplies
  • get a car wash, or even
  • get an oil change.

Campus dining services provider Chartwells Educational Services manages an Outtakes snack shop kiosk in the Parking Spot, providing the foodservice component to the venue's varied mix of offerings. "We worked with the bookstore to determine the retail mix," says General Manager Bill Zemke. "We provide the food, while they take care of the books, magazines, personal sundries, apparel and souvenirs, as well as administering the various services."

The roughly 20x70-ft. Outtakes outlet encompasses coffee dispensers, a beverage cooler and cold racks holding the prepackaged salads and sandwiches made fresh in one of the campus kitchens. However, Zemke is toying with the idea of expanding his offerings, perhaps to include Home Meal Replacement options like wholeroasted chickens, a natural for commuting students and staff on their way home.

The Parking Spot is designed for maximum convenience, with a common checkout point that allows customers to purchase product and services from several retail points without having to stand in line at each. Hours currently are 7 am to 11 pm Monday through Thursday.

Initially, traffic has been light, primarily, Zemke says, because the venue is so new and because, opening in the middle of the school year, it is outside most students' established routines. Many don't know the new parking deck is even available, even though it sits practically in the middle of the campus and has been open since the fall. Current usage is only about 30 to 40 percent of capacity on any given day.

"The first couple weeks of a new school year are big pattern builders," Zemke explains. "That's when most students establish their daily routines. Because we opened in January, we have to overcome the inertia of those established patterns."

That bodes well for the fall, when a new window of pattern establishment opportunity will give the Parking Spot a chance to make a grab for the convenience purchase dollars it is designed to entice.

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