The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has selected Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, a Barnes & Noble Education company (NYSE:BNED), to operate its UNC Student Stores. As part of a 10-year, $30 million agreement, all operations will transition on July 1, 2016, with the exception of the print shop and pharmacy, which the University will continue to operate. All 48 full-time staff members will maintain employment at their current salary either under Barnes & Noble College management or by remaining with UNC-Chapel Hill.
“Guaranteeing continued employment for existing staff, preserving the beloved qualities of Student Stores and significantly increasing the funds toward need-based scholarships are key elements of this partnership with Barnes & Noble College,” said Brad Ives, associate vice chancellor for campus enterprises. “We thank everyone at Student Stores for their service and commitment to the campus community and for their patience during our diligence process.”
Employees transitioning under Barnes & Noble College management are guaranteed employment for three years. Full-time staff who transition to new management and are within 18 months of their five-year state service mark or three years of their 30-year state service mark will remain on the UNC-Chapel Hill payroll until they meet those milestones. Staff members retained by UNC-Chapel Hill will be offered positions with comparable duties in other areas of the University.
Net proceeds from UNC Student Stores sales will continue to support need-based scholarships. Barnes & Noble College forecasts an annual payment to the University of more than $3 million, with a guaranteed minimum payment of $3 million annually for the first two years. After the University covers operating expenses, existing debt service of $800,000 annually and other support costs, the Student Stores expects to net out between $1.75 and $2 million, which will be contributed to need-based scholarships annually, quadrupling its recent contribution.
“Ensuring an affordable education for our students is a proud part of Carolina’s past and a cornerstone of our future,” said Shirley A. Ort, associate provost and director of scholarships and student aid and a member of the Student Stores RFP Advisory Committee. “For decades, Student Stores has been a great partner in that effort by providing a vital source of scholarships for both undergraduate and graduate students, getting us to where we are today. For that we are enormously grateful, and to the staff who have also hired our students. But this plan for Student Stores will create millions of additional dollars in need-based scholarship funds for talented and deserving students – supplemental sources that we greatly need.”
The new design plans for UNC Student Stores include greater visibility for the Bull’s Head Bookshop, which will retain its name and move to larger space on the top floor. The new Bull’s Head Bookshop will stock 70,000 titles, more than double the current offerings, and continue to feature books by University faculty. The renovations will also include a gathering area for book talks and signings.
“The ideas for the Bull’s Head are remarkable and very consistent with what we heard people say they wanted,” said Ives. “Barnes & Noble agreed that the bookshop was underutilized, and they have plans to reimagine it while preserving its local vibe that this campus has come to know and love.”
Financial terms of the agreement include:
- $3.8 million to update and expand existing retail space and another $200,000 for technology.
- $1 million signing bonus, which will go to need-based student scholarships.
- $25,000 for annual textbook scholarships.
Other key terms include:
- Maintaining the UNC Student Stores name without Barnes & Noble branding.
- Offering a 10-percent discount on new and used textbooks for UNC-Chapel Hill students plus a price-match guarantee against national vendors.
- Hiring a similar number of student employees at salaries comparable to their current pay.
- Managing the UNC Student Stores website to deliver an innovative online shopping experience.
- Establishing a UNC Student Stores advisory board, consisting of students, faculty and staff, to provide input on store programs, merchandise and services.
- Expanding the coffee shop to include a large seating area on the main floor.
In January, the University issued a Request for Proposals (RFP) to examine the possibility of third-party management of UNC Student Stores to address declining sales and increase the financial contribution to scholarships. Revenue has declined by more than 15 percent since 2007 and remained flat for the last five years.
“As a result of the overall declining sales and margins, contributions to scholarships have been inconsistent from year to year,” said Ives. “This inconsistency, combined with the rising cost of tuition, means we have not been able to keep pace with the growing need for scholarship funds, and we needed to explore other avenues.”
The University received and reviewed proposals in response to the RFP. Six firms and the management of the UNC Student Stores presented their proposals to a 13-member advisory committee, representing faculty, staff and students. The proposal from Barnes & Noble College received the committee’s unanimous endorsement.
“We are grateful to the advisory committee, which represented a cross section of the campus community and brought diverse perspectives about the Student Stores,” added Ives. “They really cared about making the right decision for Carolina.”
“We’re thrilled to partner with UNC-Chapel Hill, the nation’s first public university,” said Max J. Roberts, Chief Executive Officer of Barnes & Noble College. “We’re looking forward to delivering an innovative retail experience and dynamic digital learning environment that supports the University’s superior quality and affordable academic programs. This complete support system will help nurture student success and serve the entire Carolina community.”
Barnes & Noble College operates bookstores at nearly 750 U.S. colleges and universities; 25 of those are in North Carolina, including four at other UNC system schools.
About Barnes & Noble College
Barnes & Noble College, a Barnes & Noble Education company (NYSE:BNED), is a leading operator of college bookstores in the United States. Barnes & Noble College currently operates 748 campus bookstores and the school-branded e-commerce sites for each store, serving more than 5 million college students and faculty nationwide. As a strategic partner, Barnes & Noble College is committed to offering a complete support system and an unmatched retail and digital learning experience to foster student success in higher education.
General information on Barnes & Noble College can be obtained by visiting the Company’s website: www.bncollege.com.