When you step inside the University Store, it is impossible to not find something that catches your eye. From Towson University beach towels to a whole line of TU Under Armour clothing, the merchandise selection is always tempting. As Merchandise Buyer and Specialist at the University Store, it’s Lori Frantz’s job to make sure it stays that way.
Lori, who’s always had a keen interest in clothing, found herself a fitting position at Towson University in 1993 after leaving a job as Receiving Supervisor at JoS. A. Bank Clothiers. She started working as a general clerk in the University Store and loved the new atmosphere. Her love of the job showed in her work, and she steadily progressed from her contractual clerk position to a full-time gig in the Store’s general merchandise receiving area, to her current position, which she’s held for five years.
During her time in the store, Lori has born witness to the ever-changing trends of university students, from the flannel shirts popular in the 90s to the rain boots that are all the rage today. She’s even seen trends that were popular decades ago—like neon colors—come back into style. As a buyer, Lori tries to determine the longevity of these trends and stock them appropriately.
“There are always new colors or styles each season,” Lori said. “The trick is to try to get the most sales without getting caught when a style changes.”
Despite being student-oriented, the University Store has a range of customers—from the children of alumni to current students, parents, faculty and staff—and Lori tries to stock the store with a wide variety of merchandise to fit every buyer, and their associated price range. She purchases everything from giftware like mugs, key chains, bags and car decals to TU clothing and footwear, to school and office supplies; almost everything except for food and textbooks. The items chosen are selected based on a range of criteria.
“I choose items for the store in many ways: for specific needs of professors or departments, products that have a specific purpose, products that are fun and exciting, products that are new on the market, etc.” she said. “My focus is on the current market. I look not only at good quality and functional merchandise, but also the popular trends that appeal to or are requested by students and faculty/staff.”
To find the latest trends, Lori attends college trade shows, checks out various stores, websites and magazines, and observes students and individuals of all ages on and off campus. Vendors are constantly presenting her with new samples, catalogs and opinions too.
“I look for repeated styles, colors and designs. The more you see something, the better likelihood that it will sell,” Lori said. “Sometimes it is just a guessing game too, but that’s the risk you have to take in sales.”
Last year, Lori and her coworkers managed that risk expertly. Out of 64,000 pieces of clothing, 62,000—or almost 97%—sold.
“As you can imagine, my job is very time-consuming,” Lori said. “But I get to meet a wide array of people and see so many new and interesting products. Seeing the satisfaction of the customers that walk out of our store with something they love makes it all worthwhile.”