Barnes & Noble takes over

After five years of waiting, Barnes and Noble Bookstore Inc. will become the new owner of the USF Bookstore. The deal should be finalized in July, said Jeff Mack, director of auxiliary services at USF.

B&N will also continue its ownership of bookstores on USF’s satellite campuses.

In February, USF began receiving bids from other companies interested in the Bookstore. Mack said the process allowed different companies to submit proposals back to the university for evaluation.

“Each of the stores had evaluation committees that were made up of students, faculty and staff,” Mack said.

These committees rated the proposals and made a recommendation to the USF executive officers for final approval, Mack said.

Independent bookstores that cater to USF students’ needs said the change to the B&N management would, most likely, not affect their businesses.

“I don’t think (this deal) is going to affect me at all because my business is a specialty bookstore,” said Felecia Wintons, owner of Books for Thought Inc.

Specializing in African-American literature, Books for Thought Inc. also sells new and used books for USF courses.

Jim Gray, owner of Gray’s College Bookstore, also agreed that the B&N exchange would not have an effect on his establishment.

“I don’t see how (the deal) is going to affect my business in any way,” said Gray, owner of three other Gray’s bookstores nationwide. “Barnes & Noble is a pretty big company and obviously they do a very good job.”

However, Wintons said the deal might have been an unwise move.

“I am pretty surprised of (the deal) considering that the bookstore generates a lot of income for the university,” Wintons said. “For them to give up that ownership, in a time when the state university system is being faced with a lot of financial challenges such as budgets cuts, is crazy.

“I would think that USF would want to hold on to one thing that provides them stable income.”

However, Mack said revenues that would come to the university for the bookstore would allow USF to invest more money on other projects or departments.

“The operation will save the university a lot of expense money that could be used for other things at the university,” Mack said.

Wintons added that if convenience is important. People who need African-American titles would probably go to the B&N college bookstore. Nevertheless, Wintons said people who are looking for something in particular concerning African-American literature would still go to her store.

“After a certain point, (people) won’t be able to find the books that they need, so they would come to us,” Wintons said.

According to Wintons, the establishment Books for Thought, Inc. has been in business for 10 and a half years and Gray’s College Bookstore has been in business for about four years.

Despite the fact that it is a little too early to determine if any major changes would occur in the operation of the bookstore, Mack said USF is going to look at all the provided services from the current bookstore and try to find ways to enhance them through the management of Barnes and Noble.

In addition, there are four different USF bookstores, the Tampa main campus bookstore, the Health Sciences Center bookstore, the St. Petersburg campus bookstore, and the Sarasota/Manatee New College bookstore, that are involved in the deal with Barnes & Noble College Bookstore Inc. Each bookstore’s contract might have a different time length.

“The main campus bookstore’s contract, the one (USF) is working on right now, would be about a 10-year agreement,” Mack said.

Conversely, the Sarasota/Manatee New College bookstore, which was previously contracted to B&N, would continue on under a different contract but under the same management they currently have, Mack said.

Even though renovations were part of the proposals that were submitted by the bookstore vendors like B&N, changes, if any, probably won’t happen before the beginning of the fall semester.

“There isn’t a need for any major renovations right from the start,” Mack said. “We haven’t finalized the contract nor how that capital investment money would be spend.”

In regards to what fraction of the bookstore’s sales would the university get, Mack said there is a range of percentage for the different stores based upon sales.

“Each of the USF bookstores has a different structure for that based upon the contract that (USF) completes with Barnes & Noble,” Mack said.

Even though USF did not establish with B&N a percentage requirement to hire USF students for its staff, Mack said he believes B&N would look for students to fill in positions within the store. In contrast, Gray’s College Bookstore staff has more than 80 percent as USF students.

According to Mack, there would be a major increase in used books, which are sold at 25 percent lower than retail.

“The Barnes & Noble College Bookstore Inc. has a used book distributor, so they would be able to increase the number of used books in the store,” Mack said.

In addition, both Books for Thought Inc. and the Gray’s College Bookstore count as alternative resources by offering new and used books for USF courses as well.

Currently, the Bookstore has fall textbook reservation on its Web site, as well as the Financial Aid Advancement program, the service where students with financial aid can buy their books. Those two services, Mack said, would continue.

“Initially, the reservation program would continue through the summer and then eventually the Web site would allow USF students to buy books and shipment for those books as well,” Mack said.

The Web site would also offer USF merchandise.

Another potential service, to the soon-to-be B&N bookstore, is their well-known pastry and coffee shop within the store.

“A café section is certainly a possibility, but it is too early to indicate if there would be one there and when it would occur,” Mack said.

In regards to Barnes & Noble qualifications, the Black reports that Barnes & Noble College Bookstore Inc. is the largest seller and buyer of collegiate attire and school supplies in the college market.

Mack also mentioned that USF was the only state university that had not outsourced its bookstore. According to Barnes & Noble Inc.’s official Web site, B&N College Bookstore Inc. handles more than 400 college and universities’ bookstores across the United States.