Students roaming the campus of the University of California, Riverside (UCR) are looking at its bookstore with interest — and excitement. On July 7, the UCR Campus Store will reopen its doors under Barnes & Noble College management — with a redesigned store and plenty of new offerings. “We looked at several options and Barnes and Noble College best met our need for services to support our campus community,” said Jim Sandoval, vice chancellor for student affairs.
UCR administration has connected the new bookstore team with representatives from the far reaches of the university: the chancellor, vice-chancellor, students, the Academic Senate, associate deans, the strategic marketing team, the admissions department, freshmen orientation coordinators, and campus tour guides. “UCR has been so welcoming to us,” said Barnes & Noble College Regional Manager Denise Nakakihara. “They want this partnership to succeed as much as we do.”
The results thus far have been very positive. “All of our interactions have been really wonderful,” confirmed Assistant Dean of Students Todd Wingate. “The Barnes & Noble team has been really interested in partnering with us, not simply to be here as a vendor on campus, but to interact and engage with us in order to learn about our distinct community.”
When the store reopens, students will find it completely redesigned, with a clear definition between retail spaces, computer and technology products that have been moved upstairs, and new contemporary merchandise — including brands such as Blue 84 and U-Trau, and performance apparel like Under Armour and Champion. “They’ll also find yoga clothing and accessories, fashion school-supply lines like Poppin, and Sakroots accessories,” Nakakihara explained. “We’re looking at this as if it’s a completely brand-new store. We’re offering students as much as we can to get a good read,” she explained. “This way we can fine tune our offerings in the future to best respond to the needs and interests of the campus.”
New manager Stacy Weidner comes to the UCR Campus Store with an extensive background in retail management. Weidner was awarded the NextGen Leadership Award in 2013, which is given to one manager from each of Barnes & Noble’s five territories who exemplifies outstanding leadership and collaboration with campus partners. A former general manager of the three Riverside City College District bookstores, Weidner has also worked for the national retailer Nordstrom.
“Our students are really curious about what’s coming next for them,” Weidner said. “They’re particularly interested in flexible pricing, which includes a much more extensive rental program than ever before, and digital titles, which provide a lot of options. We anticipate up to 80 percent of textbook titles offered to be included in the rental program, with approximately 25 percent available in the digital format, as well.”
“Stacy’s retail background really dovetails with how we operate as a company, as a region, and as a store: The customer always comes first,” Nakakihara emphasized. “We want to deliver an exceptional experience, not just for students, but for staff, faculty and the administration. It’s a philosophy our bookstores, managers and booksellers live by.”
That exceptional experience will eventually include plenty of student seating for studying and socializing as well as spots for recharging laptops, tablets and phones. Also on the horizon is a major renovation to the current space. Next spring, the campus store will move to a temporary site for approximately one year while the current building undergoes renovations. “The ground floor of the new building will house our career center, which is now outside the center of campus,” Wingate explained. “Operating in the current space until spring gives us a year-long opportunity to test things out and see what works and what doesn’t,” he continued.
The new space will bring textbooks up from the basement to what will eventually become a single-level store. “There’s a lot of decision making still to be done,” Nakakihara said, “but the campus is very enthusiastic about offering its students a bookstore that’s updated, well-stocked and student friendly — and that’s exactly what we’ll deliver.”