The student population of Florida’s Broward College can rival a small city. Each year, more than 68,000 students choose from more than 100 bachelor’s, associate’s and certificate programs. Nearly 1 million people, representing more than 175 countries, have taken a class at one of the school’s 12 locations — online or a combination of both.
So how does a campus bookstore accommodate the needs of such a sizable number of students?
It doesn’t — but seven bookstores do. Those seven bookstores transitioned to Barnes & Noble College management on July 1, a mighty feat considering that all seven stores opened two days later on July 3. “We had a lot of help,” explained Meaghan Connolly, general manager of the Broward College stores. “My regional manager, Jennifer Russell, brought in her most seasoned managers from across Florida to help us take inventory and get ready,” she said. “In addition, managers from other stores around the country came to help. It was definitely a group effort.”
With a large student body and a variety of academic choices, Barnes & Noble College had its work cut out for it. The bookstore teams put in overtime to meet those high expectations and succeeded in an incredibly short period of time. Within two days, all of the stores had repositioned books and merchandise to make for a better customer experience for shoppers. And with nearly 70,000 students, the focus was on getting students in and out of the store quickly during the busy semester rush. “In the past, lines reached out into the hall,” said Connolly. “We hired 100 temporary student workers to help us with customer assistance, to work as cashiers and booksellers, and to help students with their textbooks. It made a really big difference.”
That difference was felt by students as they shopped the busy bookstores for their learning materials before the start of the semester. “Students were surprised and excited when they saw the Barnes & Noble bags in the bookstore,” said Christian Herrera, a student bookseller on the Central Campus. Students were also happy to receive guidance with finding their textbooks and choosing the format that works best for their learning style and budget. “Students received plenty of help and the assistance they needed,” reported Victoria Torres, a student bookseller on the Central Campus of Broward College. “I didn’t see a single customer who wasn’t greeted or helped. It’s been an amazing experience,” she added.
The bookstores brought other benefits to students as well. “The opportunity to purchase books online was new to Broward College,” said Connolly. “With our bookstore websites, we processed 4,500 online sales throughout seven campuses.” As students registered for classes, they could easily click on a link to order all of their assigned textbooks, which populated from their class schedule to the bookstore website. The process was so seamless that despite the lack of time to market the option, thousands of sales had already been made. “This generation of students is so comfortable online that it was somewhat intuitive for them,” said Connolly. “Students appreciated ordering this way and coming in to pick up their books without paying for shipping. It made the whole process so convenient.”
Finally, the range of textbook options available to students provided a flexibility not previously found on the Broward College campus. “Fifty percent of our titles were available to rent this semester and more rental titles will be available going forward,” Connolly said. “We’re growing our digital titles, too.”
Textbook rentals have become the most popular textbook option for students because of the exceptional savings they offer. “Students love that they can rent their books at a reduced cost,” said Torres. “When I tell them about the rental option, they’re so excited — and relieved. Textbooks can be very expensive and not all students get financial aid, so the rental option is such a great choice.”
Each campus and center is different, and the bookstores are careful to reflect those distinctions. For example, at the Weston campus, the bookstore is based in the library and high school students often take advantage of the offerings, including candy and drinks. The largest campuses — Central, North and South — have sizable nursing programs. South campus has a large aviation program and the AutoNation Center for Excellence. On North campus, the school is building a separate bookstore in the health sciences building where the Barnes & Noble College team will sell lab coats, uniforms, instruments, and scrubs in addition to textbooks. And at Central, EMT students and police officers in training require books and uniforms.
Fortunately, most of the existing bookstore staff transitioned with Barnes & Noble College, providing the new team with a robust learning curve. “Cookie cutter stores aren’t an option here,” Connolly says. “We work hard to fulfill the specific needs of each individual campus and each student.”