A changing of the guard will take place on July 2, as the Barnes and Noble Bookstore’s 15-year contract with the USF Bookstore, will officially expire and Follett Higher Education Group will take its place.
As a result, the store will temporarily close on June 28 while Follett prepares for its opening.
According to Howard Taylor, the group vice president for Follett, the company’s new contract with USF will last 10 years and includes a deal to invest $1.1 million in renovations to each of the five storefronts that the company will manage on USF’s campus.
“We have a commitment of over $1 million to all of the (USF) stores, so we will be splitting that up based on who needs it and when,” Taylor said. “Initially our goal is to just get transitioned, open and ready for Aug. 20, and everybody moving back. After we get in here, and up and running, we will start plans on future renovations.”
As far as what specifically will change from a visual perspective, Taylor said that some of the initial changes will be seen when Adidas begins its new contract of eight years, replacing Under Armour as the official outfitter for USF athletics. However, Follett will be making additional changes after the start of the fall semester, including new paint and lighting fixtures.
Follett, however, is not stopping the investments there.
Taylor said that an investment of $50 million is being made company-wide to improve online offerings, the company’s website and add new technology.
“There are a couple of other things when we implement our systems, one of the things that we are going to be able to do is students can go on their phone and pull up their schedule and (their course materials) will all be arranged for them,” Taylor said. “All they have to do is put in their student I.D. and all of the books they need will be right at their fingertips.”
Taylor said the message of Follett is clear — providing choice.
“Our goal is to offer a new book, a used book, a digital book and a rental book,” Taylor said. “We want to have all four options available and that also brings four price options.”
With more book options comes prices that vary and are competitive, according to Taylor.
“We do price match,” Taylor said. “We price match with Amazon and Barnes and Noble, so that is number one. But, number two is that we are going to have choice. We have a 200,000-title rental library, so there is a good chance that if the book is available here, it will be available as rental.”
The on-campus bookstore is more than just a place to purchase textbooks, as many students use the cafè in the store to study or grab a bite to eat.
In a message to The Oracle, Dawn Rodriguez, the assistant treasurer for USF, said the coffee shop staple will remain.
Taylor added that a large component of the bookstore is currently operated by student employees and that is expected to remain the same as well.
“There are 10-12 full-time employees, but all of the rest are going to be student employees,” Taylor said. “It will be up to 100 (student employees) for back to school. For a store that is open seven days a week, we need to make sure that we have the staff to maintain that.”
According to Taylor, Follett is no stranger to Florida universities, as the acquisition of USF will set them at over 100 stores in the state of Florida alone.
Some of the in-state universities where Follett has contracts are FSU, UF, Florida Atlantic and Florida Gulf Coast, among others.
Taylor said that something different about Follett’s management of university bookstores is that they do not brand it under their own name, unlike Barnes and Noble has done. Instead, the focus is put on the university itself.
“We do not brand our stores,” Taylor said. “We have been in the business for 145 years, but we do not brand our stores, we take on the name of the university. We think the universities name is more important. It’s the USF Bookstore.”