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November 20, 2017 FOCUS | Retail

Barnes & Noble's foothold firmly planted at UConn in downtown Hartford

Patrick Maloney President, Barnes & Noble College

Q&A talks to Patrick Maloney, president of Barnes & Noble College, which operates 781 college-campus bookstores around the country, including eight at UConn's seven campuses around the state.

Q. Barnes & Noble's downtown Hartford location on the UConn campus has been open since August. How are things going so far? Are you getting the sales and traffic you hoped for?

A. Since opening our Barnes & Noble UConn Hartford store in August, we've received an overwhelmingly positive reaction from the community. We are pleased with the success of the store and the traffic we've seen. More importantly, we are honored to have the opportunity to serve the UConn community through not just one, but eight bookstores across seven UConn campuses.

Q. Is the Hartford bookstore seeing business from more than just UConn students? Has the bookstore tried to establish any partnerships with local employers to bring in more business?

A. Because of its location in downtown Hartford, our store has the benefit of serving as a hub for not only UConn students, but for members of the surrounding community as well. In addition to textbooks, our store offers general interest books, a Barnes & Noble café serving Starbucks beverages, a grab-and-go-style food market, and a selection of UConn apparel and other merchandise.

We are currently in the process of engaging with local businesses to explore partnerships that would benefit all of our customers.

Q. In 2016 Barnes and Noble College took over operation of all UConn bookstores, including the school's main store in Storrs. What changes has Barnes and Noble made to existing UConn bookstores since that time. Is there a different operating strategy between the Storrs and Hartford locations?

A. Barnes & Noble College operates more than 780 campus bookstores nationwide, and we strive to make each of those stores unique to the campuses they serve. In all eight of our UConn bookstore locations, we created vibrant academic and social hubs that reflect UConn's culture and values.

The stores were designed to offer a wide selection of course materials, general reading books and other merchandise. They also include comfortable seating, grab-and-go food markets and, in many, Barnes & Noble cafés serving Starbucks beverages. Graphics in the bookstores reflect the UConn brand and community, and showcase the students that our stores serve.

In our Storrs location, we also recently added The Glossary, an in-store boutique that offers students the opportunity to explore, sample and purchase a wide variety of prestige beauty products such as Smashbox, Philosophy, Bliss and Stila, and traditional mass-market brands including L'Oréal, Burt's Bees and Maybelline.

We operate all of our stores with the overarching strategy of being a complete support system, offering a customized, diverse retail experience; affordable course materials; and innovative technologies that enhance the student and faculty experience.

Q. What's the outlook for the upcoming holiday season? Is Barnes and Noble as dependent on the holiday season as much as other retailers?

A. We are looking forward to our first holiday season with the UConn community in Hartford. Because the UConn bookstores are primarily college stores, their busiest seasons occur during the beginning of each school semester.

Q. What kind of a threat do online book sales pose for Barnes and Noble's brick-and-mortar locations?

A. At Barnes & Noble College, we try to gain a competitive advantage by acting as a complete support system for the students, faculty and communities we serve. In addition to providing students with their course materials, we also offer clothing, gifts, technology and other merchandise that promote the strong brands of our campus partners.

Barnes & Noble College bookstores aim to ensure that the right textbooks are on the shelf when students need them. This commitment to service includes stocking every book that is requested for every class, even obscure foreign language books, customized course packs and loose-leaf format textbooks. Online textbook competitors do not provide that type of guarantee or level of commitment and service to campus-specific textbooks — or accept financial aid.

The bookstore continually looks for ways to offer savings to our students. Our commitment has always been to ensure that our students can access everything they need to succeed in the classroom. The price match program is another example of the bookstore's latest efforts to ensure students are prepared for the first day of class, with the correct learning materials — at the most affordable prices. The program is very popular with students.

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