YUSU have announced that their sole retail outlet is to close for business after over ten years of trading. YUSU Shop, situated on Market Square alongside Nisa and Peacock’s Hair, will be closing at a date after the end of the current academic year, following the decision not to renew their leases, which end around the final quarter of 2018.
A press release from YUSU President Alex Urquhart, embargoed until Monday 15 January, revealed the planned closure, with the statement later being shared on the Sabbatical Officer’s official Facebook profiles. Urquhart cited the changing nature of the retail industry for the closure, explaining how operating a retail outlet on campus had been a struggle for YUSU for many years, and that maintaining the outlet is no longer sustainable. YUSU shop has reached the point where “it is no longer financially viable to continue YUSU shop in its current form.”
The statement further noted that changing market trends, the advent of competition, both online and locally, and rising costs in general, were significant contributing factors to the decision to close the doors of YUSU shop for business. It also noted how the retail industry as a whole has been faced with an unprecedented revolution, with customers leaving a traditional high street model, a trend which has been “well documented recently in the national media.”
Shop staff were informed about the decision prior to the announcement. Redeployment opportunities will be offered for retail staff, while student staff will automatically be offered another position within other outlets operated by YUSU.
YUSU is working to identify how the services which are “most valued” by customers, such as bike safety equipment, bus tickets, and the postal service, can be continued, partnering with the University to try and ensure this. Places these services are offered include a new postal depot in the Piazza building on Heslington East, with bus tickets being available purchase directly from the buses and online.
While YUSU Shop is closing, a retail presence is still planned by the organisation including an expansion of their current online services, which allows societies to offer merchandise which can be purchased individually by members rather than having to do a whole society merch order. Any future retail offer by YUSU will be designed with the changing demands of students in mind.
The announced closure appears to have gone down badly with students online, with 33 crying reactions and 11 angry reactions on Urquhart’s Facebook post of the statement, compared to only eight like reactions and one love reaction at the time of writing, with the crying reactions including one by the personal Facebook account of YUSU Academic Officer Julian Porch. History of Art student Fanni Breczku also expressed frustration with the decision in a comment on the post, noting that it was “the only retail shop on the whole of the uni campus that offered decent vegetarian & vegan options at a good price. It would have been nice if you’d have asked the student body’s opinion before deciding to close down the shop.”
Urquhart told Nouse: “We survey shop users in a wide variety of ways and have been monitoring students’ views on this for some time. Through our annual student satisfaction survey, we know that students consider the value for money of the products at YUSU shop to be falling as they can access cheaper products delivered to their door via supermarkets and online retailers.
“As a student union charity we want to provide the services and products students want in a way which supports our other charitable activities (like advice, sport grants and costs, societies grants etc). We have said we will try to retain access to the things which add value to students’ lives (like bike safety gear, stationary, bus tickets, branded merchandise etc) but we will provide these products in a way which is more efficient and more effective and doesn’t put at risk the union’s current investment into other membership activities and wellbeing support.”
Regarding complaints of a lack of consultation, Urquhart said: “Consultation started with all the affected staff this week and will continue through the coming months right throughout the process. The law on consultation with staff is clear and we are following this comprehensively to ensure we protect jobs and the products that students value and want to maintain access to. We are working hard to find suitable redeployment opportunities for all staff affected.”