Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Jan Hanson announced that “Barnes & Noble College Booksellers will assume operations of the St. Olaf Bookstore” in a Feb. 5 email.
The Manitou Messenger spoke with Hanson and three student workers at the bookstore this past week to see how the transition went.
“One great benefit of working with Barnes & Noble is having access to many more titles and suppliers, that in turn make the textbooks and other products more affordable to the students and customers,” Hanson wrote in an email. “The percent of rentable titles increased from approximately 40% last fall to 85% this fall, with loose-leaf materials and course packs making up the majority of non-rentable titles. Having greater access to rental titles, in addition to the new price match program, are two examples of ways students are able to save money with Barnes & Noble.”
Amanda Peng ’20, an employee at the bookstore, seemed content with the transition.
“I think it’s actually really similar like, how you do the purchasing and how things work together,” Peng said. “I even think Barnes & Noble is more organized than the St. Olaf Bookstore used to be.”
Hanson wrote that she anticipated bookstore revenue to increase by “approximately $150,000 per year” in an email following her announcement of the takeover. In her recent correspondence with the Manitou Messenger, Hanson wrote that the bookstore is reaching its revenue goals.
“While it is still early in the transition, sales are on track with what we would expect at this time of the year,” Hanson said. “The College has received over $40,000 of commissions for the April through July timeframe.”
Laura Garcia Pimentel ’20, an employee at the bookstore, didn’t notice much of a change following the takeover.
“There’s just another person, a manager from Barnes & Noble,” Pimental said.
Umaimah Choudhary ’20, an employee at the bookstore, noticed the bookstore becoming more corporate during the transition.
“Everything started changing, it was just all a very fast transition,” Choudhary said. “It felt like it was just getting a little more corporate – over the homey St. Olaf bookstore that it was. There were a lot of changes in a very short amount of time, but it’s okay we get a 20 percent discount.”
Choudhary mentioned some of the changes following the takeover.
“There were some changes where you weren’t allowed to use your phone,” Choudhary said. “We weren’t allowed to use our phones before as well, but in the 5 to 8 shift you could.”
Choudhary also mentioned that there were some layoffs during the transition.
“A few of the managers got laid off,” Choudhary said. “Which was sad but we had going away parties for them.”
“Barnes & Noble retained three of the five employees that were employed by the college in the bookstore at the time of the transition,” Hanson wrote in an email.
Hanson said that the response to the Barnes & Noble takeover has been mostly positive.
“Feedback regarding the transition has been generally positive,” she said. “As with any transition, there are changes and processes to work through, but the Bookstore staff is committed to working with faculty, staff and students to meet the needs of the students and the College community.”