In a surprise announcement on Friday morning at the opening mega session of CAMEX in Kansas City, Mo., National Association of College Stores president Mary Ellen Martin, director of store services at the University of Maine-Farmington, said that organization is establishing an entity to strengthen the independent college store, indiCo. NACS CEO Brian E. Cartier added that in preparing for the new subsidiary’s launch on April 1, the organization has signed a letter of intent to purchase the 600-member buying group Connect2One from the Nebraska Book Company.

At the business meeting that followed founder Jeremy Gutsche’s talk about innovation, both Martin and Cartier elaborated on NACS’s own innovation, which grew out of last summer’s Campus Retailing Futures Think Tank. IndiCo, which replaces NACS Media Solutions, will focus on retail innovation, merchandising strategy, and data analytics. It is intended to address a set of strategic priorities adopted last fall, which will give it a leading role in nurturing the campus experience: “NACS will invest the necessary resources and intensify efforts to position college stores as comprehensive retailing and academic-support operations that meet the needs of students and the higher education community.”

Although Cartier is bound by a confidentiality agreement and can’t elaborate on the details of the Connect2One arrangement, he said that NACS is working “diligently” to conclude the purchase in a few weeks. “We know that the expertise and reputation of Connect2One and its 25-year history of success will have a positive impact on college stores,” he said.