Following a $30 million loss in income when Follett pulled its business from the National Association of College Stores’s NASCORP subsidiary late last summer, it was clear that something needed to change. Coupled with a continued drop in the number of independent campus stores as colleges and universities sign leases with Barnes & Noble Education and Follett at the rate of one every four days, the association is refocusing its energies on independents.
At its annual conference and trade show, CAMEX, which is being held in Salt Lake City from March 3-7, NACS launched a new initiative aimed at retaining independent campus stores and transitioning leased stores back to independent stores. To do so, the association is redefining the role of its three-year-old indiCo subsidiary, which will go from being a consulting service for independent stores to becoming an independent campus store collaborative.
Through the collaboration indiCo will offer both full and custom services to institutions that need help with running their campus stores. These services will range from providing assistance with choosing a POS system to managing the entire campus store operation.
At the association’s annual business meeting and town hall, NACS CEO Robert Walton noted that the industry has lost 360 independent stores in the past five years, 92 last year alone. “We shouldn’t hand over the industry to Follett and Barnes & Noble [Education] without competing,” he said. “We’re going to start fighting back.”
The change in direction is reflected in indiCo’s new URL and website, goindico.com, which includes a video of Walton’s presentation on the new indiCo at a mega session on the state of the campus store business.
“While leasing the campus store was once a viable option, that model has deteriorated. We believe that independent stores best serve the needs of students and higher education. Corporate leasing companies now drain more than $1 billion in profits from leased stores every five years. That is money that, through institutionally operated stores, previously helped fund financial aid and other student services, employee benefits, and campus facilities renewal,” said Walton.
As part of the relaunch of indiCo, NACS has put in place a number of key partnerships with service and technology providers, including Amazon, RedShelf, Sidewalk, and VitalSource. The association is also dedicating 25 staffers to the revamped indiCo. Both the NACSCORP and Connect2One subsidiaries will become part of the indiCo collaborative service offerings and operate under the indiCo name.
One question voiced by a number of campus store buyers and directors as they left the mega session was, What will this cost? More information will be made available throughout CAMEX.