Barnes & Noble Thinks College Kids Can Solve Its Financial Woes

A blog about business and economics.
May 8 2014 3:55 PM

Barnes & Noble Thinks College Kids Can Solve Its Financial Woes

rtr39jfj
Can college students' spending help turn Barnes & Noble around?

Photo by Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Barnes & Noble has set its sights on college campuses. The national bookseller plans to grow its 696 college locations to 1,000 stores over the next five years, Reuters reports, in order to reverse sluggish sales and find alternative streams of revenue. Barnes & Noble wants the new college stores to be bigger and better so that they become a social hub for students and locals alike, college business head Max Roberts told Reuters. The goal is to create a string of "academic superstores" with spacious cafés, a wider selection of apparel, and even Clinique cosmetics counters.

Barnes & Noble is the second-largest operator of college bookstores (behind education company Follett Corp., which runs 940 such shops). At a time when sales of traditional print books have dwindled, college students remain lucrative customers. The College Board finds that the average student spent a whopping $1,200 overall on textbooks and supplies in 2013. The National Association of College Stores estimates that the average student spent $711 at their own campus store in the 2011-12 academic year, and that sales in the entire college store market were worth $10.45 billion that year. Barnes & Nobles, by comparison, did $7.1 billion in total sales in fiscal year 2012, of which $1.7 billion came from its college division.

Advertisement

While Amazon and other online vendors facilitate markets for buying and selling new and old coursebooks, many students still opt to do their shopping on campus. Sometimes buying online is a lot cheaper, but not always: Saving $100 on a used copy of an organic chemistry textbook, for example, probably feels a lot more worthwhile than getting a few dollars off Mrs. Dalloway, especially if it could be days or weeks before the text ships and then navigates its way through the local post office. (Pro tip: The cheapest option of all is to reserve your books in advance through the college or local library system.)

Still, if Barnes & Noble really does turn its college branches into "academic superstores," it might be able to convince college students to make their purchases of books and other merchandise there by capitalizing on convenience. And if lots of students start hanging out in the bookstore to study, chances are they'll fuel those academic pursuits by spending a tidy sum on coffee and snacks.

Alison Griswold is a Slate staff writer covering business and economics.

 

TODAY IN SLATE

Foreigners

More Than Scottish Pride

Scotland’s referendum isn’t about nationalism. It’s about a system that failed, and a new generation looking to take a chance on itself. 

What Charles Barkley Gets Wrong About Corporal Punishment and Black Culture

Why Greenland’s “Dark Snow” Should Worry You

Three Talented Actresses in Three Terrible New Shows

Why Do Some People See the Virgin Mary in Grilled Cheese?

The science that explains the human need to find meaning in coincidences.

Jurisprudence

Happy Constitution Day!

Too bad it’s almost certainly unconstitutional.

Is It Worth Paying Full Price for the iPhone 6 to Keep Your Unlimited Data Plan? We Crunch the Numbers.

What to Do if You Literally Get a Bug in Your Ear

  News & Politics
Weigel
Sept. 16 2014 7:03 PM Kansas Secretary of State Loses Battle to Protect Senator From Tough Race
  Business
Moneybox
Sept. 16 2014 4:16 PM The iPhone 6 Marks a Fresh Chance for Wireless Carriers to Kill Your Unlimited Data
  Life
The Eye
Sept. 16 2014 12:20 PM These Outdoor Cat Shelters Have More Style Than the Average Home
  Double X
The XX Factor
Sept. 15 2014 3:31 PM My Year As an Abortion Doula
  Slate Plus
Slate Plus Video
Sept. 16 2014 2:06 PM A Farewell From Emily Bazelon The former senior editor talks about her very first Slate pitch and says goodbye to the magazine.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Sept. 16 2014 8:43 PM This 17-Minute Tribute to David Fincher Is the Perfect Preparation for Gone Girl
  Technology
Future Tense
Sept. 16 2014 6:40 PM This iPhone 6 Feature Will Change Weather Forecasting
  Health & Science
Medical Examiner
Sept. 16 2014 11:46 PM The Scariest Campfire Story More horrifying than bears, snakes, or hook-handed killers.
  Sports
Sports Nut
Sept. 15 2014 9:05 PM Giving Up on Goodell How the NFL lost the trust of its most loyal reporters.