UCD Students’ Union Commercial Services Limited, which encompasses all of the SU’s retail units across campus, ended October by recording a profit. Though the retail outlets were in the red overall, UCD Students’ Union President Rachel Breslin is cautiously optimistic after the profits “exceeded expectations”.
The profits for October amount to €49000, but the shops made a loss for the year to date of €31,000 for the period ending October 31st 2012.
Breslin credits the late profits to the cuts in costs implemented earlier in the year, such as the rapid decrease in costs for wages and supplies. New products, the Insomnia Coffee kiosks in particular, also contributed. The seasonal nature of the shops is causing some concern, but the development is seen as positive overall.
“The main reason [for the final-quarter profit] is that costs have rapidly decreased: wage costs, purchasing costs; management has improved,” says Breslin. “This still needs to be a cautionary tale, particularly this month [January] and during the summer; they’re so seasonal, those months are extremely quiet with a large cost base. The shop picture can’t be accurately assessed by just term time performance, so what we need to do is build up those months so overall there is a surplus.”
Every aspect of the shops is being reviewed, including the possibility of redeveloping the library shop to offer more selling space. The Union also hopes to open a shop in the new Science building and is currently in contact with the developers of the building to reach an agreement there, while there are no plans to wind down the Engineering shop, due to its popularity among students in that school.
The Commercial Managers employed for the last semester are in the process of “extending their contracts until the summer,” says Breslin. “Their job is to manage the shops on the ground and to develop a strategy for the shops in the medium and long-term and to look beyond shops to provide other services for the students. I think that they have been experienced individuals on the ground and being able to help me with the management while they take the operational decisions.”
The short-term success of these managers in assisting the UCDSU in changing the losses of the shops to profit in the latter stages of the year does not guarantee that they will be a permanent part of the management structure, with the decision on whether or not to make long-term appointments to be reviewed “at the end of the year.”