Regular-session classes soon resume at the University of Manitoba, and with the commencement of classes will come the campus-wide back-to-school buzz of activity that signals the beginning of a new school year.
The Fort Garry campus’s University Centre bustles from morning ‘til evening during the first few weeks, as students congregate to pick up textbooks and ID cards, take in orientation activities, and simply catch up with friends and people-watch.
There are people and activity in every corner of University Centre in September, but nowhere is the back-to-school buzz more pronounced than at the University of Manitoba Bookstore, where as many as 6,000 people will visit each day during the busy first weeks of classes.
Students come to the Bookstore primarily for textbooks, although many will also participate in another campus rite: picking up the requisite gear that identifies them as students of the University of Manitoba.
“For a lot of students, it’s part of the university experience,” said Leta Beyak, the Bookstore’s manager. “Some of our biggest sellers are the U of M backpacks, our travel mugs and our clipboards. And, depending on the weather, sweatshirts and hoodies.”
The clipboards in particular are nearly ubiquitous on campus. Clipboards are for many students a must-have for taking notes, and the colourful vinyl-covered boards emblazoned with the university logo can be spotted in almost any classroom.
It’s up to Beyak and Sharon Montgomery, the store’s retail and marketing supervisor, to stay on top of what the student demographic is into. That means keeping up on current trends, not only in the world of fashion, but in backpacks and coffee mugs.
In the world of water bottles, the hard-plastic Nalgene-type bottle is the latest trend. The Bookstore has the bottles in a range of colours sporting the university logo.
For some reason, pewter has regained popularity. Beyak’s not sure why, but the Bookstore ensures items that are popular, pewter included, are in stock.
The store also carries a range of higher-end items bearing the University of Manitoba logo, including fine watches and desktop clocks. There’s even U of M golf balls.
Much of the merchandise, in particular sportswear, bears University of Manitoba Bisons insignia. The Bookstore is a partner in building the Bison brand and markets much of the merchandise that carries the Bison logo.
Beyak said one thing consistent across the range of the Bookstore’s U of M-themed products is the quality.
“Part of our mandate is to promote the university brand,” Beyak said, which means items bearing the university logo meet a specific quality standard. As well, the store’s code-of-conduct sets out an ethic that dictates fairness and respect for all who work with the Bookstore in some capacity, even those who stitch the apparel the store sells.
“There’s a reason we don’t sell five-dollar t-shirts,” said Beyak. “We require all clothing suppliers to agree to signing a code of conduct. We will not purchase clothing from sweatshops.”
Beyak and Montgomery said Bookstore staff are already busy gearing up for the back-to-school rush, including events like the Bookstore’s special evening for residence students, which will bring more than 1,000 students into the store at one time.
Towers of textbooks await the throng of returning students, and many have already made a visit to get a head start on getting everything they need before classes start.
Thursday, Sept. 8 marks the first day of classes for students in most faculties and departments. New University 1 students are on campus Sept. 6 and 7 for orientation.