Barnes & Noble College will operate UNC Student Stores

In July of 2015, Follett, an educational services company, sent an unsolicited request to lease the historically University-owned Student Stores. In September, the University announced it would accept other proposals to lease the stores. Yesterday, the University announced Barnes & Noble will operate the stores.

Barnes & Noble College

Barnes & Noble College currently manages the bookstores of four UNC-system schools — UNC will be its fifth.

“We’re very excited to partner with University of North Carolina Chapel Hill,” Patrick Maloney, president of Barnes & Noble College, said in a statement. “We look forward to delivering a retail and digital learning experience to the UNC community that will support student success.”

UNC and Barnes & Noble College have a 10-year contract, which can be terminated at any time if the University feels Barnes & Noble College is not acting in compliance with their terms.

What’s on the table

According to a University news release, Barnes & Noble College will spend $3.8 million to renovate the stores’ retail space and $200,000 for new technology — all while retaining the UNC brand.

Bull’s Head Bookshop, which will carry 40,000 more book titles under the new management, will be moved upstairs with the Student Stores Pharmacy and the Print Stop said Brad Ives, vice chancellor for campus enterprises. Ives estimated renovating Bull’s Head Bookstore and completing other projects might take up to two years.

According to the terms of agreement of the privatization, UNC will retain management of the Print Stop and pharmacy. Additionally, Barnes & Noble College will be required to provide a full-service convenience store and coffee shop in the Student Stores. Ives said The Daily Grind Espresso Cafe’s contract will soon be up, and they will have to negotiate a new contract with Barnes & Noble College to stay on campus.

Ives said Barnes & Noble College will offer new and used textbooks that are 10 percent less expensive than those sold in the stores now.

“There’s a pricing formula that’s the same pricing formula we currently use to price our textbooks and the price that Barnes & Noble agreed to have in our stores is a ten percent discount to that,” Ives said.

A price matching system will also be employed under Barnes & Noble College, Ives said.

“So if a student finds a price on Amazon that’s better than the formulaic price minus ten percent, the store will match that price,” he said.

Ives said Barnes & Noble College will contribute $1 million to student scholarships through a signing bonus, along with a yearly contribution that is four to five times higher than the most recent scholarship contribution by the Student Stores.

How jobs are affected

Ives said 11 employees will be transferred to UNC’s Division of Finance and Administration, four Print Stop employees will remain University employees and the remaining full-time staff will be guaranteed a position under Barnes & Noble College for three years.

The transition should not affect student jobs, Ives said.

“It definitely benefits students and the campus I think, but the employees are going to have a change that is forced on them,” he said. “It’s very difficult for employees to think that’s going to be better for them.”

Charles Streeter, chairperson of the Employee Forum, said the transition isn’t the best case scenario for employees.

“It was not the desired outcome because the Employee Forum from the very beginning has always advocated and wanted employees to remain with the University,” he said.

Streeter said eventually employees will see a benefit.

“The package overall — they’re not with the University, but, when you look at it, it is still somewhat of a compromise, but it is a fairly good package,” he said. “It’s a whole lot better than when this conversation first started back in September, what was initially on the table.”

Employees will have to face challenges during the transition, Streeter said.

“But this will take time,” Streeter said. “I know there are some feelings that were hard. And I know from things that were said that there were feelings of betrayal from probably the entire committee. And I can’t say that I wouldn’t feel the same thing.”

Employee benefits

Streeter said no state employees will lose their state pensions during the transition.

“Those stay with the state. Once you’re a state employee, it doesn’t matter how you leave the university — if you’re fired, leave the university — (their pension) will stay with the state,” he said. “That was never something that was in danger.”

With Barnes & Noble College, Ives said employees will enjoy the same seniority of position and financial compensation along with a comparable insurance package.

Kelly Hanner, course material manager for the Student Stores, said she hoped this change would benefit students on campus.

“I’ve seen a lot of changes on campus. Unfortunately, this is a national trend for public universities,” Hanner said. “One’s afraid as Student Stores has now been leased, it’s going to be a domino effect for other university book stores.”

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