While slow sales were a source of frustration for the gift shop at a nearby historic site, those same troubles presented Eastern Illinois University marketing students a golden opportunity for some hands-on experience in a real-life business environment.
Kesha Coker, a faculty member in the EIU School of Business, recently offered up the services of her Retail Management classes to devise methods for boosting sales in the Goosenest Prairie Gift Shop at Lincoln Log Cabin State Historic Site.
“Sales were low, and it was unexpected given the amount of visitors the gift shop had,” said Coker. The two non-profit support groups currently maintaining and managing the gift shop (Lincoln-Sargent Farm Foundation and Volunteer Pioneers) agreed that allowing Coker’s students to step in for some assistance would be a win-win situation for all involved parties.
“We worked out an arrangement in which my classes would analyze the gift shop and provide recommendations to enhance the operations of the retail gift shop,” said Coker, whose charges examined all aspects of the operation — from store layout to pricing to promotion of products — and used their observations to complete class projects on the subject and develop suggestions for maximizing the shop’s profit potential.
“The recommendations my students provided were very novel, and we expect to see some real improvements and enhancements,” said Coker.