B&N College is planning to convince more college to sign contracts for B&N College to run their bookstores, and the bookstore operator is also planning to poach stores from Follett. This distributor and wholesaler currently operates around 940 college bookstores under contract.
While this might appear optimistic, B&N College has reportedly added 50 stores in the past couple years. They have a strategy that is working, and a large number of college bookstores to try it on. Around 1,500 colleges still operate their bookstore independently, including the University of Washington (the school where Amazon poached customers back in January).
In addition to signing new contracts, B&N College is also expanding the footprint of existing stores to offer more services. "We want to make our stores the center of the community, and appeal to other consumers, not just students," said Roberts.
For example, last summer B&N College opened a new and larger bookstore at the Mananas campus of Northern Virginia Community College. At 3,000 square feet, the new shop was about 3 times the size of the old location.
"The biggest difference is the addition of a café and a marketplace with an expanded selection of convenience items, such as more Pepsi coolers, a freezer for frozen goods, and a reach-in cooler for sandwiches and salads," said Barnes & Noble General Manager Jack Smith. "There’s also more room for general merchandise such as school supplies and electronics."
B&N College is also experimenting with a superstore concept.The B&N operated bookstore at Rutgers University, for example, is around 30,000 square feet in size, putting it far closer to the retail stores B&N operates in malls and shopping centers. Barnes & Noble College thinks they will eventually be operating 75 college superstores, compared to 35 now.
B&N's college store division may not get the same press attention as the retail chain, but it is arguably the healthiest part of Barnes & Noble. In a time when bookselling is struggling to survive, B&N College has shown a slight but consistent positive growth over the past few years.
Compared to any retail bookstore chain, B&N College is the picture of health.