Conference Recap: (Virtual) USPA 2021

USPA 2021: Together Again

The world has changed since the last time we were all together for the last in person USPA (Universit Surplus Property Association) Conference in 2019, and although it was virtual, it was wonderful to have everyone together to discuss higher ed surplus. There was a tremendous turnout for this virtual meeting including many people who may not have been able to attend an in-person conference at this time. Topics for this conference included electronic processing, online sales, social media use, and sustainability.

Best Practices for Processing Surplus Electronics

Penn State and NC State surplus teams spoke to us about their experiences with processing electronics. Penn State pointed out that prior to COVID they would sell their better equipment via live, in person auctions, but they are now selling this equipment in their store and their customers are happy with this switch. Their revenue from electronics comes from sales, payments from recyclers, and faculty/staff purchasing their old equipment. NC State has taken their selling of electronic equipment to the next level, and modeled after Temple University, they have opened a dedicated computer resell space.

Hot Topic: Online Auction Sales

The liveliest discussion came next when we heard from presenters about their experiences with Online Auction sales. While there were designated presenters, we heard from many schools regarding their experiences and suggestions with online auction sales. Many schools have participated in this sales method for a long time, and due to COVID, there has been an even larger emphasis on selling online instead of in person auctions and storefronts. Best practices shared included: list big or interesting items/lots (and not to worry about small items), ensure there are plenty of quality pictures, be as descriptive as possible, and start bids a little lower to encourage more people to engage with bidding. **Editor’s Note: Did you know our latest software for higher ed surplus, Recoup, offers a online auction module? Here’s more info.

Benefits of Maintaining a Surplus Storefront

The online sales discussion brought up a good discussion about the benefits of maintaining a storefront. Even with a focus on online sales, a storefront can bring in big dollars and big relationships. There’s always a need to move small items with a large quantity and a storefront provides a place for the local community and students to shop for these items. If the school allows for student workers, the cost to run a store can be minimal, especially if the store is only open select days/hours per week.

How Social Media Drives Surplus Sales

To get the word out about their storefront and online sales, Holly at Colorado State lead a discussion around the use of social media. CSU has found that Facebook is the most useful tool, and this is how they communicate with their buyers regarding new inventory, store closures, rare discounts, and everything else surplus related. They’ve expanded into Facebook Marketplace for certain items, and big tip is to ensure that there’s an auto responder turned on for when questions and messages come in during off hours. They also maintain Craigslist, Twitter, and Instagram but Facebook receives the most engagement.

Surplus as a Driver of  Higher Ed Sustainability Goals

Lastly, the virtual conference was closed out with the topic of sustainability. There are many surplus organizations who work with their sustainability office already, but if you don’t, it is highly recommended. The sustainability effort on campus is directly impacted by surplus and they care about the same objectives and goals. Surplus helps with sustainability STARS reporting through communicating their efforts with recycling, donations, reselling, reuse, and landfill.

As we closed out this virtual conference, we look towards 2022 and the hope that most can attend an in-person conference at NC State University. Lance and Bill have been working very hard to ensure that the conference will be accessible for those with COVID concerns, but also that it will maintain the goals of a traditional USPA conference to be educational, informative, and provide an opportunity for all of us to learn from each other. We hope to see all of you in Raleigh this coming March as USPA brings us all back together again.

About the Author: 

Sean Pugatch leads sales for AssetWork’s active and surplus asset management products. He is an industry expert, having spent over a decade guiding and implementing asset mangement systems for states, universities and K12 institutions. He is a proud participant in USPA and a native of the great state of Georgia.

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