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Barnes & Noble in Ohio Union still transitioning

The OSU Bookstore opened Sept. 6 and replaced university-run Station 88 in the Ohio Union. Credit: Amanda Carberry / For The Lantern

The OSU Bookstore opened Sept. 6 and replaced university-run Station 88 in the Ohio Union.
Credit: Amanda Carberry / For The Lantern

While a Barnes & Noble takeover of an Ohio State store has relieved the university of certain expenses, some said it’s too soon to tell whether OSU is profiting from the transition.

The store, which replaced the university-run Station 88, opened Sept. 6 as the OSU Bookstore.

Kathy Smith, general manager of the store, said so far, the store’s performance is “exactly meeting expectations.”

“We expect growth there as we bring in additional product selection this year,” Smith said.

Dave Isaacs, spokesman for OSU’s Office of Student Life, said the Union isn’t able to yet compare the finances of running Station 88 versus leasing to Barnes & Noble, though there are differences.

“Certainly, we’re not buying inventory and paying staff … those are the biggest distinctions,” Isaacs said.

Isaacs was unable to provide information about the cost of operations before the transition and how the transition has affected OSU’s financial obligations because the new store hasn’t been operating long enough.

All employees of Station 88 were rehired with the new store, Smith said.

“Everyone who wanted a job there had a job there, and we’ve actually hired more people since then as well, since we’ve had some graduates,” Smith said.

Smith said the current products in the store are similar to what Station 88 carried.

“It’s convenience foods, Ohio State clothing and gifts, greeting cards, school supplies … it’s all the same mix,” Smith said.

Even if Station 88 had stayed, however, the stock would have been different.

“The university switched over to J. America as a clothing vendor, so it was going to change anyway, regardless of whether it was us or the university running it,” Smith said.

It was announced in November 2012 that OSU had entered a 10-year, $97 million agreement with two apparel and retail businesses, J. America Sportswear and Fanatics Inc., to exclusively produce and sell university apparel. According to a Dec. 31 email from OSU spokesman Gary Lewis, however, “no agreement has been finalized” with Fanatics Inc., and other vendors have been considered to fulfill its role. Apparel company Lids, based in Indianapolis, took over the online apparel in September and stadium and store apparel in July, Lewis said in a Jan. 10 email.

The J. America contract is valued at $85 million which Lewis said “is consistent with the previous announcement” of $97 million for the two companies.

Isaacs said part of the reason OSU made the switch was so visitors could take advantage of Barnes & Noble’s new offerings.

Unlike the Barnes & Noble College store in Enarson Classrooms Building or the Barnes & Noble located at 1598 N. High St., however, the store in the Union is not planning to stock textbooks.

“There’s not enough room to do textbooks in that store. You could never do it,” Smith said.

She said the store in Enarson Classrooms Building is almost 12,000 square feet, while the Union store is only about 2,700 square feet.

Smith said Barnes & Noble’s contract with the Union lasts until April 30, 2016, with automatic renewals through 2025.

Barnes & Noble is expected to pay a monthly fee to Student Life calculated on a percentage of annual gross sales, Isaacs said.

As for the length of the contract, Smith said the long-term planning was necessary.

“It’s the same thing … like at (South Campus) Gateway. We make a substantial investment in equipment and technology, so you need to have enough time to do that,” Smith said.

Michelle Bullock, a second-year in speech and hearing science, said she used to shop at Station 88 all the time, but stopped after they had a closing clearance sale.

“I kind of liked it in-house. We already have (Barnes & Noble) on High (Street),” Bullock said.

The store still has Station 88 branding out front and throughout the space.

Kristen DeJongh, a first-year in physics, thought it was “weird” that the signage had not been changed yet.

Smith said new Barnes and Noble signage for the store is currently in production, but there is no cost available yet as the store is waiting for OSU to supply some design work.

Regardless of the changes that have yet to be made, Isaacs said he’s hopeful about the future of the space.

“We (are) pleased with the relationship, and we certainly expect both parties to benefit from the store,” Isaacs said in an email.

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