Barnes & Noble rebrands campus bookstore

As of this past summer, the campus bookstore has ended its six-year partnership with the Follett Higher Education Group and has begun working with Barnes & Noble College. The bookstore opened with the new affiliation on June 22. According to Campus Auxiliary Services Executive Director Mark Scott, the long-term relationship with Follett ended for a number of reasons.

“We believed there were better solutions in the marketplace, specifically as it relates to selling items rather than textbooks,” Scott said. “We had to give Follett a lot of instruction on when to do and how to do it, but Barnes & Noble has deep roots in retail space and are inherently interested in finding ways to keep people interested and coming to the store.”

Barnes & Noble College is affiliated with Barnes & Noble, Inc. but according to store manager Chris Sackett, it differs from Barnes & Noble bookstores—which are all fairly similar—because every Barnes & Noble College bookstore is catered to the campus it serves.

“Our goal is to serve the campus community to the biggest extent that we can,” Sackett said. He previously worked through Barnes & Noble at SUNY Brockport and Genesee County Community College’s bookstores, explaining that the company strives to accommodate each one to its campus’ needs and culture.

The partnership with Barnes & Noble affects all aspects of the bookstore, from the actual textbooks to the clothing, promotional items, health items, layout and even its role on campus.

“We want to make the bookstore more of a social hub for people on campus and off campus as well,” store manager Ashley Zalappa said.

This goal begins first and foremost with the physical modeling of the store. While Sackett explained times were not set in stone, Scott reports that remodeling will ideally be finished by Columbus Day weekend. New fixtures will include a seating space, a new façade and a reorganization of the apparel and non-textbook merchandise.

“One of the things we were clear with … was that we wanted brands that would be on trend, brands that were going to offer value, whether that’s name brand that everyone recognizes or brands that are high quality and affordable at the same time,” Scott said.

The revamped bookstore is also working on increasing the efficiency and costliness of textbook buying that students go through every semester. “One of the final decision factors that we used to conclude this process [of finding a partner] was, ‘Can you commit to working with us to put a price lock program in place for Geneseo?,’” Scott said.

The price lock program—which Scott hopes to put into effect as early as the spring 2016 semester—would tell students in advance how much their textbooks will cost prior to the semester and could tell students a consistent net price for the next two to six semesters.

“We think that is on par with how people think about higher education,” Scott said. “It’s not just about today, it’s about how our situation will pan out over the years. If I can tell you that up front, that makes your decision to come to Geneseo that much easier. It makes your decision to go to college much easier.”

Sackett, Zalappa and Scott are also working on implementing a price-matching program in the textbook section to ensure that Geneseo’s bookstore prices are not higher than those of competitors—even online distributors like Amazon or Chegg.

The bookstore will also be expanding its options for textbooks to include more eBook and digital purchases and rentals. “It’s no longer just a new or used book that’s available,” Sackett said.

Students can expect many changes to the style and role of the bookstore, which is allowing students to submit and vote on its new name. Sackett noted that the bookstore wants to “really extend beyond the four walls” and be a presence at special events, visiting weekends and sporting events, as well as a hangout spot for students in the MacVittie College Union.

“We see the College Union as the place where community building happens on campus,” Scott said. “We think Starbucks helps to do that, Fusion Market helps to do that, the Center for Community helps to do that … we want the bookstore to be just as important in that effort.”