Follett Higher Education Group, a division of Illinois-based Follett Corporation which operates more than 980 campus bookstores at colleges and universities nationwide, informed its employees on November 8 that it is “adjusting [its] store staffing model to put more hours on the sales floor whenever students are shopping most,” by laying off 570 full-time employees at 400 of its stores, effective immediately.
In a memo that was circulated to all 6,000 employees in Follett’s Higher Education Group on Friday afternoon, Bob Scholl, Follett’s v-p for retail operations, explained that the layoffs were “necessary to not only improve the experience of our customers, but also to allow Follett to continue to grow and invest in the future.” Follett intends to staff its bookstores with more part-time employees and fewer full-time employees to more strategically respond to recent student shopping trends. Explaining that Follett wants to ensure that stores are more heavily staffed during busy times, which are less seasonal in nature and less predictable than in previous years, Scholl wrote that the layoffs of full-time employees will provide “more scheduling flexibility each day, week and year. The result will be more customer-facing labor hours in our campus stores, generating more selling opportunities with increased customer satisfaction.” The new flexible schedule, Scholl wrote "is part of Follett's much broader and comprehensive transformation, which is reflected in the fact that we've invested more than $200 million in technology, distribution, digital content and ecommerce over the last three years alone."
According to Tom Kline, a Follett spokesperson in Follett Corporation's River Grove corporate headquarters, all the full-time employees who were laid off were laid off at stores that “were not in line with the ratio we had set for the standard” of full-time to part-time campus bookstore employees, which Kline disclosed is a goal of 80%/20%. All laid-off employees -- who were informed on Friday, Monday, and Tuesday-- were given a cash severance payment, “a minimum of four weeks of pay,” Kline said, and were also offered part-time positions with Follett.
Follett Corporation, which was founded in 1873, employs a total of approximately 10,000 employees and its annual revenues are $2.7 billion. Mary Lee Schneider, former president, digital solutions and chief technology officer at R.R. Donnelley, was named the company’s CEO a year ago this week.