Not even an unplanned stopover from Hurricane Sandy could dampen the enthusiasm for last month’s official debut of the new Barnes & Noble at LSU campus superstore at Louisiana State University (LSU). The planned debut of the new store segued into a two-week long ‘event a day,’ beginning October 22, and included a cavalcade of trick-or-treating events, author signings, samplings and grand-opening sales as a build up to the revised opening celebration.
It turned out to be worth the wait. “It was exciting to the see the students come through the store, fully merchandised, for the first time,” says store General Manager, Paul Stevenson. LSU had posted an announcement to thousands of followers of their Facebook page, and the opening drew a flood of students eager to join the celebration. “Everyone knew we were building a new facility,” Stevenson remarked. “But I don’t think anyone realized exactly what we were building for the campus.”
As a long-time planned joint venture between Barnes & Noble College and LSU, the new superstore has quickly become an integral part of the campus.
“About seven or eight years ago, we had this dream of building this Barnes & Noble at LSU on the campus – and the dream was to build a store that was not only a destination, but had great sense of place,” said Eric Monday, Vice Chancellor, Finance & Administrative Services at LSU. “It looks like LSU, it feels like LSU, and there’s a sense of comfort that our students have that just makes the store so great.”
Providing greater space for merchandising and customer seating within the dramatic store design, the new superstore offers an expanded café for nearly one hundred people and an extensive menu to include more fresh food items. Previous limitations to the store’s textbook reservations process have been reworked to now include online ordering and three service counters where reservations can be accessed and fulfilled without waiting.
But what has really excited Stevenson is the way the LSU campus is already using the store. “The other day, a professor held classes in our café,” he explained. “And our new event room is a client-inspired space, which really demonstrates how our partnership is working.”
Seating 65 people and providing full audio visual facilities, the store’s event room will be the new venue for prospective student tours with an LSU presentation and the opportunity to talk about the store’s resources.
“Our student body seems to be spending a lot of their time here, and I think students are benefiting greatly, not just on a social aspect, but on an academic aspect as well,” said Taylor Cox, LSU Student Body President. “It’s exciting. Our students want to be here. Our visitors to campus want to be here. They want to come in, they want to check out the store – and so it’s been a really positive thing for us.”
Stevenson also points out that the spacious new store epitomizes the Barnes & Noble College philosophy to be a store for everyone. “We talk a lot about building stores designed for the community,” he says. “With our expanded opening hours – particularly on weekends – we’re already seeing a tripling of business over our old location from largely non-campus customers, and we’re also seeing a lot of people bringing their kids in, and that’s exciting.”
For the immediate future, Stevenson and his team are busy with the holiday shopping season in addition to keeping up the momentum of their new store. ‘We don’t design stores for opening day, no matter how grand they might be,” he points out. ‘We design them for a lasting impact, and to create more involvement on and off campus.”
Stevenson points to a robust schedule of author visits, cooking demonstrations and community events designed to do just that. He also maintains that he wants to be able to offer his customers an experience; from dropping in for a cup of coffee, to using the tech center, to simply reading in front of the windows in one of the store’s plush chairs. “It’s always going to be what happens in the store and the level of customer service we’re able to offer that really counts,” he says.