Case Study: University of Idaho

With five brick-and-mortar locations, a robust online offering, and a strong social media presence, it's safe to say that The VandalStore at the University of Idaho has experienced significant growth over the past few years. As the store has expanded, however, so too has its mission.

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University of Idaho Finds True Partnership with MBS

VandalStore about more than books

With the help of MBS Systems, Director John Bales and his staff created a new strategic direction, transforming from a traditional college bookstore operation to that of a true retailer.

His decision to partner with MBS, however, was by no means hasty. Throughout the search for a new system, Bales did his due diligence through research and interaction with the top providers to ensure he found the one that would best support his store's increasing needs.

"As we continued to grow, I knew I needed to find not only a system, but also a systems partner that could help me meet the demands of a multi-store retail operation," explained Bales. "10 years from now, it really won't matter what hardware we selected. Our partner's ability to support and expand along with us is what's truly important."

Searching for the right partner

While exploring the options, he used the Best Value Request for Proposal (RFP) process, based on a business model derived by the Performance Based Studies Research Group. Unlike the traditional RFP process in which stores compile a list of specifications for potential systems providers to meet, this model instead required each provider to offer Bales the solutions they found most relevant.

"We chose this model because it offered a more outcomes-based approach," he said. "We wanted to find a partner that could help us reach our long-term goals or even provide solutions that we hadn't yet thought of, rather than simply meeting a list of qualifications," he said.

Though he didn't designate specifications, Bales did keep one issue in the forefront of his mind: customer service.

"We had recently executed a significant amount of change not only in the structure, but also in the culture of the store. In doing so, we focused a lot on customer engagement and satisfaction because we know that when we achieve those aspects, that's when we really win," added Bales.

In this facet, especially, Bales noticed that MBS stood out from the crowd.

There are so many pieces to the system that I, as a director, appreciate.

— John Bales

"As a company, MBS feels the same way we do. They believe that when we, as a store, are successful, they are too. They understand the importance of providing value-added services to the customer, and their system supported that effort," he explained. "I knew we would be able to maintain a high-level of service through their POS." Bales was not the only one who recognized the shared regard for a customer-centric outlook.

"I can honestly say The VandalStore is one of the friendliest stores I had ever walked into," added Victor Hoffman, MBS Systems senior sales consultant. "Their greetings are so genuine and you can tell that they're sincerely happy you stopped by. From my very first visit, I knew we'd be a great fit for their store because we offer our partners the tools to maintain that exceptional level of customer service."

Though he believes customer satisfaction is of the utmost importance, Bales' decision to incorporate the MBS System into his store went far beyond this one aspect.

"I really liked that the functionality followed a classic retail structure," he said. "Typically, college store employees are ‘jacks-of-all-trade' and can bounce from a number of jobs, such as buying at the POS to selling on the floor, throughout a given day. The MBS System offers a more focused functionality you'd find in a regular retail store. That was important to me."

A custom solution

With this winning combination of innovative technology, shared values, and support, Bales was convinced that MBS offered everything his store needed to enhance the current success of their multi-store operation. And since the implementation, his opinion hasn't changed.

"There are so many pieces to the system that I, as a director, appreciate," he explained. "The robust reporting feature makes it so simple for me to get the information I need to make decisions and the high-level of innovation has made it possible for us to increase our mobile strategy."

Beyond its global capabilities, the MBS System also has the capability of providing Bales with custom reporting through MBS Systems Dashboard.

"I was highly impressed with MBS' ability to offer customization; it adds a significant amount of retail methodology to my operation," he noted. "This level of managerial reporting will truly impact change at the store and help us to continually grow."

One of the qualities Bales most enjoys in the system, however, is the superior service it brings to his store.

"I'm very satisfied with the POS side of the system and the transactional quality it offers; it's been great," he said. "It's increased our transaction speed for the customers and, because of its intuitive nature, decreased the time it takes to train our cashiers."

"The Golden Rule"

Exceptional customer service reaches beyond The VandalStore's patrons, though. In fact, Bales believes their store has enjoyed the chance to experience the same treatment, thanks to MBS.

"Even though we installed in July, the continued dialogue and training hasn't ended," he explained. "The MBS team is committed to taking care of us as we transition, and we've been very happy with the level of support."

As for the future, The VandalStore has no plans to slow down anytime soon.

"So many in the industry refer to themselves as collegiate retailers," explained Bales. "But, I want to go beyond that; I want to be a great retailer. With MBS' technology and support, I think that goal is even more achievable. Their ability to grow with us and help us transform into whatever the future holds for the industry is invaluable."

The partnership between The VandalStore and MBS is by no means one-sided, either. Bales' proactive, forward-thinking mindset provides an exemplary model for those who work with him, as well as others in the industry.

"A lot of my inspiration has come from John," Hoffman shared. "He has gone beyond being a bookseller, and is determined to do whatever it takes to maintain his position as a viable retailer. His store is a great example of how others can benefit from a retail-minded outlook and use their system to the fullest."

About University of Idaho:

  • FTE: 12,493
  • Has awarded over 100,000 degrees since being founded in 1889
  • Five locations worldwide
  • The VandalStore has transitioned from being a traditional college bookstore into a true retailer

About MBS Systems:

  • Meets the demands of a multi-store retail operation
  • Offers exceptional customer service through hardware and software solutions
  • MBS Systems Dashboard allows for intuitive custom reporting
  • Offers dedicated account management and ongoing training opportunities