KEARNEY – The new Loper Spirit Shop opened just three weeks ago, but you can already see the impact across the University of Nebraska at Kearney campus and throughout the community.
Students, staff, faculty, alumni and other UNK supporters are eager to check out the revamped store inside the Nebraskan Student Union, which now offers a better selection of apparel and merchandise for anyone looking to show their Loper pride.
“The response has been really positive,” said manager Len Fangmeyer. “Everyone is excited to see the new graphics and styles, as well as the variety of merchandise that’s available. We’re getting more items every day, so people are stopping by two, three, four times a week to see what’s new.”
The transition away from Barnes & Noble, which operated the former Antelope Bookstore, allows the university to oversee general merchandise and apparel at the on-campus store. UNK Communications and Marketing is partnering with the Spirit Shop to help grow the Loper brand.
“We now have more creative control over the products we purchase and the designs we feature,” said Kyle Means, director of marketing at UNK. “Customers are already commenting about the nicer apparel and more competitive prices, and the Loper pride I’m seeing on display in the community is brighter, fresher and overall better than I’ve seen in a long time.”
The Loper Spirit Shop features national clothing brands such as Under Armour, Champion, Antigua, University Girl and League-Legacy, along with items produced by local vendors. There are even some Kearney State College designs.
Fangmeyer said feedback from UNK students, employees and other customers is an important part of the decision-making process, so he plans to organize focus groups to generate new ideas and ensure the Loper Spirit Shop is meeting the expectations of campus and the community.
“Word of mouth is the best advertising you can get. When students and community members are excited about something and they get behind it, that generates even more buzz and interest,” said Fangmeyer, who’s already working with local businesses that want to order their own UNK gear.
Affordability is another emphasis, with items available at a range of price points. For example, the store currently has a two-for-$25 deal on certain T-shirts. Previously, the lowest-cost shirts were $25 each.
In addition to apparel for children and adults, the Loper Spirit Shop offers a wide variety of merchandise and gifts – water bottles, golf balls, blankets, coffee mugs, dog bandanas and leashes, license plate frames, stuffed animals, footballs, decals and other items branded with the UNK and Loper head logos. School supplies, such as notebooks, calculators, headphones, binders and pens, are sold there, too.
“Our vision extends beyond the walls of this store,” Fangmeyer said. “We’re trying to get our name and logo out there so people are talking about UNK all the time.”
UNK also plans to add a Spirit Shop location at Cope Stadium for home football games and an online store will launch soon.
“The Loper blue and gold is a strong brand, and as we expand our reach throughout the region, our brand is getting even stronger,” Means said. “That will hopefully lead to growth for the university overall.”
The Loper Spirit Shop is open 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday and 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday.
UNK ONLINE BOOKSTORE SAVES STUDENTS $235K
There is one notable item students won’t find on the shelves of the Loper Spirit Shop – textbooks.
As part of the transition, UNK partnered with Akademos to launch a new online bookstore this summer. Instead of buying their textbooks and course materials directly from the on-campus store, students now use a digital platform that saves them time and money.
“That was a big change, and I think some students were a little nervous about that, but we’re already seeing the benefits,” said Michael Christen, director of business services at UNK. “Our main focus is serving students and making education more accessible for them, and the online bookstore helps us accomplish that goal.”
The UNK Online Bookstore has both physical and digital textbooks, with new, used and rental options. After logging in with their MyBlue username and password, students can access a personalized course page that automatically links to their class schedule, allowing them to see the textbooks and course materials they’ll need that semester.
Akademos offers a price-match guarantee on all new books, and there’s a marketplace where students can buy and sell books at discounted prices. Purchases can be shipped to campus, at no charge, or a student’s home address.
Students who bought books before Aug. 27 had the option of charging up to $500 to their MyBlue account.
“We saw a big increase in the number of books that were ordered because of that,” Christen said. “This option allowed many students to have their books at the start of classes, instead of waiting until their next paycheck.”
More than 50% of UNK students have used the online bookstore since it opened July 5, a significant increase from the 37% who utilized the old Barnes & Noble ordering system. The change has saved students $235,000 so far.
If students need assistance, Loper Spirit Shop employees are available to answer questions and help them make purchases.
“I’ve heard a lot of good comments from students about how easy it is to order,” Fangmeyer said. “It’s such a good system that it takes literally less than five minutes to get your books ordered.”
For more information on the Loper Spirit Shop and UNK Online Bookstore, call 308-865-8555 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.