Follett, Virginia Tech form partnership for bookstore operations

virginia techFollett Higher Education Group Inc., higher education’s largest campus retailer, will operate Virginia Tech bookstores and other services starting this month, resulting in renovated stores and enhanced access to academic materials for students.

Under a partnership contract approved by the Virginia Tech Services Executive Committee March 5, Follett will manage University Bookstore, Volume Two Bookstore, Dietrick Convenience Store, the North End Center Hokie Centric, and North End Center Starbucks, as well as various websites, catalogs, and stadium athletics stores. Virginia Tech Services, Inc. will continue to oversee retail and vending contract performance.

To implement the transition, Virginia Tech Services, Inc. bookstore operations will close during spring break from March 9 to March 16, reopening March 17 with Follett as the operator.

“We look forward to a bold new retail operation aligned with the future of Virginia Tech,” said Donald Williams, executive director of Virginia Tech Services, Inc. “It is our mission to serve the students, faculty, and staff of the Virginia Tech community, and we will continue to provide retail services and revenue to Virginia Tech. The partnership with Follett Higher Education Group Inc. will support the continuing mission and vision of Virginia Tech and Virginia Tech Services, Inc.”

Follett operates 1,200 local campus stores and more than 1,600 virtual stores and serves more than half of all college students nationwide.

“We are very excited to partner with Virginia Tech Services, Inc.,” said Clay Wahl, president of Follett Higher Education. “Follett’s 146-year history of supporting the academic mission and campus life of universities, coupled with our vast network of resources and technology solutions, will help take Virginia Tech university retail operations to the next level.”

Virginia Tech Services, Inc. was created in 1968 when the Board of Visitors chartered a nonprofit corporation to provide retail and other support services to Virginia Tech. During its years of operation, Virginia Tech Services, Inc. has transferred $48 million in surplus funds to the university for student-related purposes.

This new partnership with Follett, according to Williams, will result in enhanced, innovative access to academic materials delivery methods for students, faculty, and staff; a vendor price-matching program for in-stock textbooks; access to the largest textbook inventory in the country; an enhanced textbook adoption interface with faculty; an increase in scholarships for Virginia Tech students; print-on-demand logo clothing and gifts; and other benefits.

“The goal of the Virginia Tech Services Board of Directors has always been to do what is in the best interests of all of our constituents, which include the university, the students of Virginia Tech, and the employees of Virginia Tech Services,” said Art Keown, an Alumni Distinguished Professor and the R. B. Pamplin Professor of Finance at Virginia Tech, who serves as chair of the Virginia Tech Services Board of Directors. “We feel that this decision does exactly that. We’re very excited about the changes that are coming.”

During the next 12 to 18 months, several facilities will get renovations and upgrades, to include a new Starbucks at the University Bookstore on campus. The changes will give the bookstores a fresh look and provide for more efficient operation to improve customer experience, Williams said.

Virginia Tech Services, Inc. already oversees similar contracts with Coca Cola, Canteen, and Caldwell and Gregory for the operation of beverage, snack, and laundry vending, respectively. As part of this changeover, Virginia Tech Services personnel, with a few exceptions, will become Follett Higher Education Group employees and will be made whole as to compensation, benefits, and employment.

Bookstore operations that will be closed for the transition include:

  • University Bookstore
  • Volume Two Bookstore
  • North End Center Hokie Centric
  • North End Center Starbucks
  • Dietrick Convenience Store
  • Satellite Locations
  • Mail Order
  • Warehouse
  • Computer Service Center
  • Virginia Tech Services, Inc. website
 
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