FEATURE // Vera Bradley Blooming on Campus


Published in a spring 2011 issue of Taylor University’s newspaper, The Echo. This piece about Vera Bradley localized a national (and particularly regional) trend. In addition to traditional interviewing and research, I created my own survey to try to put more concrete numbers on the trend. Skills used: News writing, research, survey research, interviewing.

A pile sits on the desk, spilling over onto the nearby dresser.  Pinks, yellows and oranges mingle within, as buds bloom forth.  However, this is not the new flowers of April—instead, it is a swell of colorful swirls and paisley designs.  Its contents sport the same pattern—Raspberry Fizz—and display matching tags parading the same name: Vera Bradley.

Its contents vary: a laptop case, small backpack, curling iron holder, notepad, All in One Wristlet, Weekender bag and another bag used as a first aid kit create this coordinated collection.  Elsewhere in the room lurk two makeup bags, another set of notecards and an ID case.

“I don’t think I have anything else here,” Lauren Harvey says, looking at the items in her ownership, “but I have so much more at home.”

Vera Bradley has not just caught Harvey’s attention.  About 64 percent of nearly 100 Taylor female survey respondents stated they owned at least one product from the company.  Of these, about eight percent owned more than 10 products like Harvey.

Most Taylor women who own Vera Bradley (75 percent), though, own between one and four items.

The Taylor Bookstore has carried Vera Bradley for almost two years. The store’s general merchandise buyer, Erin Shively, oversees each step in the process of Vera coming to Taylor.

“I order it, put it into our system, receive it and stock it,” Shively says, as the most recent shipment sits in baskets and upon the white shelves reserved for the company.

Shively says the most popular sellers are the Zip ID Case and the All in One Wristlet.

Beth Hicks, who has worked for the store since September, has a theory as to why students buy these products the most.

“I think it’s just because they [Vera Bradley] make a good product that’s a convenient way to carry your ID around,” she says.

Hicks owns an All in One Wristlet, which both Hicks and Harvey agree is practical.

“I can carry my phone, money, credit card and ID all around campus,” Hicks says.

“It’s so much handier than carrying a purse around,” Harvey says, zipping it open and digging through the receipts she has stuffed inside, as a Reject Show ticket slips out onto the floor.

Shively, a 2006 graduate of Indiana Wesleyan University, says the company did not hold the status it has now when she was a student.

“The patterns stopped looking old-ladyish and they’re marketing to younger people [now],” she says.

The products do not come without drawbacks, though.

“There are some bags awkwardly shaped,” Harvey says.  “I don’t know what purpose to fill them with.”

Shively believes price plays a factor, saying especially the larger items are expensive.

Still, the drawbacks have not kept students from buying.

“It’s trendy, it’s in,” Shively says.  “It used to be an old lady’s design and girls have taken off with it.”

Because of this prevalence, spring and summer may prove brighter and more colorful this year—these flowers will not need sunlight and water, but willing buyers on the campus, who are not difficult to find.

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