Tricolour Outlet set to open for business

New amalgamated AMS service opening in September aims to cut costs and revitalize the JDUC

Incoming Tricolour Outlet Head Manager Katrina Keilhauer (left) and AMS Retail Services Director Allison Hockin say the new service will reduce operating costs by about $60,000.
Incoming Tricolour Outlet Head Manager Katrina Keilhauer (left) and AMS Retail Services Director Allison Hockin say the new service will reduce operating costs by about $60,000.
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Students work in the site of the old Common Ground in the Upper Ceilidh of the JDUC.
Students work in the site of the old Common Ground in the Upper Ceilidh of the JDUC.
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A new AMS service opening in September is set to breathe some new life into the JDUC.

Once a hub of activity, the former Common Ground space has been vacant since the Queen’s Centre opened in December.

“Everybody’s been so excited about the Queen’s Centre, but with the Common Ground moving out of the second floor, that floor has been pretty desolate over the last couple of months,” AMS Vice-President (Operations) Leslie Yun said. “One of our priorities … was to come up with an operation which would ensure that the JDUC remained a primary destination for students.”

Yun said the amalgamated Tricolour Outlet, set to occupy the AMS retail space in the upper Erickson Wing of the JDUC, will combine TAMS services Tricolour Outfitters and The Used Bookstore with Destinations to provide a “one-stop shop” for students.

Yun said the consolidated service will also reduce the operating costs of the two historically money-losing services, adding that last year TAMS ran a deficit of $150,000.

TAMS has run a deficit every year since its inception in 2007. In its first year of operations in 2007-08, it ran a deficit of $139,083. In its two years of operation, the Greenroom/Tricolour Market model lost about $335,000.

Yun said closing the services wasn’t a viable option.

“There was still a lot of inventory that we would have to write off,” she said. “What would you do with the space? We had sales that were steadily increasing. There was clearly a demand for these services on campus … we had to come up with something creative that wasn’t the status quo.”

Yun said the AMS Board of Directors approved the proposal for the new service in November. It was approved in February by the office of Associate Vice-Principal (Facilities) Ann Browne and Queen’s Physical Plant Services.

“Any sort of construction or new operations you have to put into the Student Life Centre have to be approved by the JDUC council and it passed in February.”

Yun said the new service will lead to more shared space in the JDUC, due to the vacancy of the present location of The Used Bookstore in the Lower Ceilidh.

“There’s three partners that currently pay into the cost shares for the JDUC: the Student Affairs office, AMS and the SGPS,” she said. “There’s a lot of proposals on the table for how to move forward with that space—none of which is finalized right now. It’s definitely not going to remain an empty space. It’s going to be snatched up pretty quickly, I think.”

The idea for the redesigned service came from Retail Services Director Allison Hockin and resulted in the formation of an AMS Board of Directors subcommittee in September.

“It was basically to review AMS merchandise services as a whole because obviously they had been losing money for some years,” she said. “The top of our priority list was combing the three services; Destinations, Tricolour Outfitters and The Used Bookstore.”

Hockin said plans for the new service were given an added boost as a result of the unexpectedly strong financial performance of TAMS this year.

TAMS was budgeted to lose $108,000 this year but will only lose $50,000.

“If, in theory, the revenues continue the way they have this year into next year, and the cost can actually be cut, this model can actually break even next year.”

Hockin said the new service has six managers, one less than the seven currently employed by TAMS and Destinations combined.

“That will be saving us $15,000 right off the bat,” she said. “The advertising budgets will also be combined, which makes a huge difference because between the two services their advertising budget is $35,000 combined, which for one service you really don’t need. That cuts out about $15,000 or $20,000 as well.”

The new service will reduce current operating costs by $60,000 in total, Hockin said.

She said construction is tentatively scheduled to start in the first two weeks of May.

“Whether or not that can actually happen on their schedule or our schedule still remains to be seen,” she said. “That would pose a huge challenge if it did change. These new managers need the place to be constructed as soon as possible, so they can really get into their positions.”

Hockin said the services were all together, called “The UBS Exchange.” The AMS split them into Tricolour Market and the Greenroom in 2004, and created TAMS two years after that.

Hockin said the UBS Exchange was a moneymaker for the AMS.

“In the mid-90s, it had a bit of a deficit, but for 1998-99 until 2004-05, it was consistently earning a profit.”

Hockin said the UBS Exchange posed a $63,414 profit in its last year of operations in 2004-05.

Hockin said the AMS decided to split the two services in order give each individual service more of a niche.

“The AMS wanted to separate the two services in order to give them each a more focused mandate,” she said. “There was a lot of focus put into the Tricolour Express tickets, but there wasn’t much of a focus put into the clothing and the books.”

Hockin said the AMS bought the space currently occupied by The Used Bookstore during the 2004-05 academic year. It was then a privately-owned bookstore called The College Book Merchant in order to gain them guarantee them “first dibs” on retail space in the future Queen’s Centre.

“It was a good space in the JDUC and it had the right of first refusal, so the AMS decided to buy it,” she said.

Hockin said she believes the new service will be more financially sustainable than its predecessors.

“The Greenroom was essentially just the same as the Used Bookstore. Tricolour Market was kind of a knick-knack place. They sold kitchenware and they sold hula skirts—it didn’t really have an identity. Then before that, the three services were as one. They were split up five years ago and now we’re putting them back together again.”

Incoming Tricolour Outlet Head Manager Katrina Keilhauer, ArtSci ’10, said she hopes the service will add new life to the JDUC.

“We want to have the same newness factor of the Queen’s Centre,” she said. “We want it to be enjoyable and not feel like a chore to go in our store.”

Keilhauer said she’s hired five managers and is hiring the rest of her staff for the service’s inaugural year.

“We had 370ish total applicants. Of that, we’re narrowing it down to 35 and we’re hiring a few more in September.”

Keilhauer said she plans to always have two managers on duty and up to 10 employees working at a time.

She said a major task for her and her managers over the summer will be to develop an identity for the service, including a logo and a mission statement.

“I know that the things that the Tricolour Outlet offers don’t really seem like they flow together,” she said. “We’re going to really have to ensure that there is a flow to the store and that it is promoted properly.”

Incoming AMS Vice-President (Operations) Ben Hartley said the biggest challenge posing the new service is for it to find a way to effectively brand itself.

“Given construction is completed successfully, solidifying the brand identity of this new store and making sure students know about it,” he said. “With the opening of the Queen’s Centre, we’ve seen a bit of a reduction in traffic in the JDUC, so having a really successful brand which is set and ready to go for the beginning of the school year will be key.”

Hartley, who sat on AMS Board of Directors last year, said students will be getting a good investment, in light of the indefinite delay of Phases II and III of the Queen’s Centre.

“Because construction has been delayed, we’re not likely getting in there for a little while. Given that, we looked at ways we could revitalize the service in the short term to set the stage for our eventual move in to the Queen’s Centre,” he said. “Essentially what we chose was a model that did not require a huge capital expenditure. Construction could have been as expensive as $100,000.”

Hartley said Physical Plant Services estimates construction for Tricolour Outlet will cost $11,000.

“Given that it isn’t as costly as it could have been, what we’re setting it up for is really giving it the chance to succeed in the time frame provided before moving to the Queen’s Centre,” he said. “We wanted a low-risk option that will serve students well.

“What we got from the Tricolour Outlet is that it’s a low-risk, but high reward retail space.”

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