Trustees approve change in bookstore operations

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Photo of student in bookstore.

Follett Higher Education Group Inc. will manage bookstore operations.

KALAMAZOO—Acting Feb. 27, the Western Michigan University Board of Trustees authorized the University administration to enter a lease agreement with the Follett Higher Education Group Inc., paving the way for that national firm to manage the campus bookstore operations and provide lower costs on certain goods and better services for students.

The move follows a lengthy review process in which WMU sought proposals from national firms with experience in the collegiate book business.  The goal was to reduce student costs and expand the array of services offered at a time when the campus bookstore environment is changing dramatically.

"Follett was selected as the one offering the most advantages to the University," said Jan Van Der Kley in making the recommendation to the board. "The company will bring the advantages of national purchasing power and market research along with a level of innovation and service that will benefit our students."

Follett operates more than 900 stores nationwide, with the majority of those stores affiliated with colleges and universities. The company and University will enter into a three-year initial agreement that will put Follett in charge of all bookstore operations, including the sale and rental of books as well as the sale of clothing, technology and other items.
 
The WMU Bookstore has 13 employees. The University and Follett are working together on a transition plan that will be shared with the employees.

Follett will lease approproximately 35,000 square feet in the Bernhard Center for an annual base rate of $1. The University will be compensated in accordance with an operating agreement that will pay WMU royalties based on the level of sales. The University also will receive an initial one-time payment to use for infrastructure improvements with part of that payment available for WMU discretionary use.

Nationally, the trend has been for universities to move away from self-operation and engage private firms to run bookstore operations. In Michigan, 10 of the state's 15 public universities have already made that move. Follett manages bookstores at Eastern Michigan University and at five other Mid-American Conference schools.