April 20, 2012
Did You Know: The Education Store for Purdue Extension
Kathy Lester (left), office manager for the Education Store for Purdue Extension, and Ellen Milligan, receiving clerk and events coordinator, work in the store's warehouse. This fiscal year, the store has surpassed $1 million in sales. (Purdue University photo/Andrew Hancock)
Located on the south side of campus, the Education Store for Purdue Extension sells digital and hard-copy informational materials to buyers across the world.
The store's origins can be traced back several decades, when it served as a distribution center for 4-H materials and publications related to Purdue Extension, the University's land-grant outreach arm. In the 1980s, the facility transitioned to a store model; the store opened an online component in 2002. The physical store is located just off Russell Drive, inside the Materials Management and Distribution Center.
A few years ago, the store's fiscal-year sales began averaging around $1 million annually, says Becky Goetz, coordinator for Agricultural Communication's publishing unit and the Education Store. After store expenses are covered, nearly all revenue the store earns is invested back into Purdue Extension publications programming.
"Going online, and then adding digital products, opened us up to a worldwide audience," Goetz says. "Since then, our demand has really jumped. We still have a lot of customers regionally and in the U.S., but we've also started growing our customer base in places like France and even China."
The store sells about 1,800 individual products. Customers typically represent groups such as other universities, elementary and secondary school systems, home schoolers, 4-H participants, state and county extension offices, and hospitals.
The store's offerings include materials produced by Purdue's College of Agriculture and Extension programs. It also sells third-party materials that range from pork industry handbooks to cookbooks to educational videos for elementary students.
Also, the store acts as a distributor for some materials from Purdue University Press. It is an official distributor for the U.S. Department of Agriculture and sells bulk copies of nutritional publications as well as a USDA home canning guide.
Between 1,000 and 1,100 of the individual products the store are in a digital format and are free, such as downloadable PDFs, Goetz says. In fact, in the early 1990s, the store became one of the first online retailers to offer PDF versions of publications, thanks to a partnership the University formed with software firm Adobe.
In the future, the store could expand its offerings to include publications from other areas of the University. It has just begun to sell digital publications readable on mobile devices.