The Harvard COOP Modernizes 140-Year-Old Bookstore with NetSuite

By Sam Levy, SVP of Sales, Oracle NetSuiteMarch 24, 2022
Harvard Coop

Long before a certain social network was founded in a Harvard dorm room, a group of Harvard students opened a business of their own. Believing that the local merchants in Harvard Square were overcharging students for necessities, they established The Harvard Cooperative Society—known as “the COOP”—to reduce the cost of living for Harvard students. Members paid a $1 fee and could shop for books, coal, and wood, all priced at just five percent over cost. The small profits were reinvested back into the COOP and soon, sales increased enough that the store was relocated to a larger space.

Nearly 140 years later, the historic COOP has grown to five store locations and an online platform and serves as the official campus bookstore for Harvard and MIT and their academic communities. The COOP’s main storefront in Harvard Square is in fact, the very same store that Evan Goldberg, EVP and founder of NetSuite, shopped for his books on his way to a degree in Applied Mathematics.

Today, the COOP’s reach has grown beyond Harvard and MIT as it proudly features the most diverse selection of popular and academic titles in the Cambridge/Boston area. It also operates as one of the largest collegiate retailers—offering the most extensive selection of officially licensed Harvard and MIT merchandise to customers around the country.

As a cooperative, the COOP is owned by its members, which include students, alumni, faculty, and staff of Harvard and MIT. With a $1 membership fee—the same as it’s been since it was founded in 1882—members receive a discount, special offers and events, and become a part of storied tradition.


Age-Old Challenges

In May 2021, the COOP completed a major renovation of its Harvard Square store. Always striving to provide value for its members, COOP president Jerry Murphy embarked on an effort to modernize the campus bookstore experience. 

“Our top goal as an organization is to modernize our technology and operations for the betterment and benefit of our members,” said Murphy. “One specific area where we’re trying to improve is in differentiating our members from our customers. By integrating all customer data into one system, we could better tailor interactions between our members and our customers, which have very different needs.”

Taking the next step as a business meant moving beyond disconnected systems for financials, ecommerce, point-of-sale, and CRM. The COOP looked to increase business visibility and automate certain manual tasks to address these inefficiencies and establish a platform that could support it for the next 100 years. The COOP chose Oracle NetSuite to replace Sage Intacct and other existing systems. 


Thriving with NetSuite

With NetSuite, the COOP will be able to integrate its financial, sales and ecommerce operations. This will empower the COOP with the insights needed to understand the financial health of its business and take a data-driven approach to exploring the possibilities of opening new locations, securing new suppliers, entering wholesale distribution, and conducting targeted marketing.

The breadth and depth of NetSuite and its ecosystem was a major selling point for the COOP as it continues to expand into product categories and new storefronts.

“NetSuite stood out to us because of its ability to scale and the customizations we can add to tailor NetSuite to our business. There are some functionalities we don’t need now but may need in a few years. With NetSuite, the platform grows as we grow,” said Murphy. “Those benefits, combined with the data integrations and NetSuite Advanced Customer Support, meant NetSuite can provide everything we need now and in the future.”


Turning the Page to the Future

As a 140-year-old business that started in a dorm room, the COOP has outgrown its fair share of spaces, and the same was true with Sage and its other existing systems. With the increased visibility and efficiency that NetSuite will provide, the COOP expects to operate more nimbly, grow membership, and deliver more seamless experiences for its members and customers.

  • “Our expectation is that the insights we will gain from NetSuite will help us identify how we can provide better experiences for our community and increase sales,” said Murphy. “With NetSuite, we have a partner in the business as we continue to scale and serve the students, faculty and alumni of Harvard and MIT for the next century.”