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NEXT: Five Minutes with Russell Markman

Submitted by BNCAdmin on Tue,01/31/2017-16:09

You could say Russell Markman has grown up with the campus bookstore. From student bookseller at CSU Northridge to his current position as Vice President, Campus Relations at Barnes & Noble College, the business is truly in his blood. Russell recently spent five minutes with us to explain why he gave up psychology for a line of work that connects him to people in a different way; why he loves textbooks, but will take a ‘stand’ for Stephen King; and why celebrating the success of others can bring tears to his eyes.

 
 

What was your first job?

My first job was working at Taco Bell — it was a great experience and I think everyone should do it. It’s really tough, but it also gives you great insight with customers. My first real job was in 1978 as a student employee at the CSU Northridge Bookstore. I worked there for 14 years (although it didn’t take me that long to graduate!), the last seven were as Store Director.

How do you describe your current role at Barnes & Noble College?

As Vice President, Campus Relations, my role is about developing new business relationships. In essence, my goal is to share the strengths, passion and commitments of our company with schools who could benefit from our expertise in higher education. I always tell people that it’s a relationship business — we’re not selling a commodity.

What are you working on right now?

We always have several proposals in the works and upcoming presentations, but daily, I am constantly looking at campus partnership opportunities where I believe we can really make a difference. We don’t wait for an RFP (request for proposal) to hit the streets; we are proactively looking for those opportunities every day.

What do you think colleges and universities are looking for in a campus partnership?

They are a looking for someone to help them drive student success, both in and out of the classroom — and not just success during students’ time on campus, but what they are going to be doing after graduation. Schools also concerned about providing affordable course materials for their students. The fact is our rental, digital and First Day solutions are not easy programs for self-operated stores to offer effectively. I also think that while many schools know Barnes & Noble College offers an array of learning materials, school supplies, emblematic merchandise, t-shirts and gum, they don’t always know about what I’d call our other front door — our e-commerce solution. And they don’t always know about all the campus engagement we’re involved with or that our relationship is not just with the folks who come through the front door, but it’s also with faculty, athletics, and alumni and other campus stakeholders. We are truly a support system for the entire campus community.

How do you think higher education has changed since you’ve joined Barnes & Noble College?

It’s totally different — by light years! What we’re doing now in learning materials, e-commerce, technology, new store growth, operations, campus engagement, retail disruption….I could go on! In fact there has probably been more change in the industry, and in us, in the last four-five years than the previous 15.

Why do you think Barnes & Noble College is able to create such great campus relationships?

I like that you used the term relationships because the most successful relationships we have are when a campus doesn’t consider us as a vendor, but as a true partner. And that goes back to the point that we’re not selling a commodity, but establishing a partnership — a collaborative relationship. I think college bookstores today are asking themselves: How can we be more relevant? And that’s where our partnership starts to answer those kinds of questions. Part of the power of that is we have a decentralized campus model, coupled with 300 talented home office folks, all of whom are incredibly focused on the success of that store. When a bookstore can access that, it becomes part of a team of 771 [bookstores], you’re no longer out there by yourself.

Where do you think the biggest opportunity lies for Barnes & Noble College for the future?

I get asked that a lot and I think it has to be about helping our customers embrace change. The role of the bookstore, the products we sell and the learning experience itself, are always going to change — and that’s exciting. But the need for a strategic partner on campus, to be able to advise on better and more cost-effective learning options, to help develop technology, and new and better ways of connecting the campus — those opportunities will always be a constant.

What would you be doing if you weren’t doing this?

My degree is in psychology and I wanted to be a clinical psychologist, but wasn’t sure I could talk to only eight people a day! This really is the only industry I’ve worked in and I’ve been doing this for 38 years — which is 266 in dog years! So I hope to be doing this until I retire, but if not, I guess teaching or something consultative might be next up on my list.

Favorite part of the store?

The textbook department: It was my first job in the store, shipping and receiving, and then as Textbook Manager, so I still have a great love for textbooks — and it ...continue »

Price Match Initiative Addresses Cost, Convenience and Peace of Mind

Submitted by BNCAdmin on Wed,01/04/2017-15:37

As a nation rapidly accumulating $1.4 trillion in student debt, the cost of learning, and especially higher education is increasingly under scrutiny. To help defray the additional financial burden of course materials, colleges, students and parents are constantly looking for better alternatives to reduce cost yet still maintain a high quality education. As the official provider of educational content and learning resources on campuses nationwide, Barnes & Noble College is meeting that challenge head on, initially with the industry’s first rental textbook program and now with a textbook Price Match program in time for Winter Rush.

Listening and Responding 

“Everything we do is grounded in research and inspired by the voices of the people we serve,” says Barnes & Noble College’s Director of Digital Education, Nicole Guerrieri. “And through our research insight community, Faculty POV, we were able to listen closely to the feedback shared there and respond with this opportunity to ensure student success,” she adds.

Although Barnes & Noble College has been addressing the issue of textbook costs for some time with its rental program, the Price Match program is designed specifically to alleviate stress – particularly for new students on campus.

“Price Match simplifies the process of securing textbooks at a time when students traditionally already have a lot of stress in their lives,” Guerrieri says. “Being prepared for class is vital to student success, and Barnes & Noble College’s Price Match program helps give students that extra peace of mind knowing they are getting the specific course materials their professors have selected.

The Price Match program offers parity with any other textbook advertised or offered from local brick-and-mortar bookstores or online retailer (i.e., Amazon or bn.com). Any price difference is refunded back to the customer through their original form of payment and the scope of the program includes new, used and rental textbooks.

“We had great success with the price match program in the fall,” explains former Augustana University Bookstore Manager Janine Haslach, who oversaw its introduction at the University this past Fall rush,” As a new initiative, Haslach saw communications were imperative to adopting the new program at her college. “We talked through the Price Match program with my client, and by providing us with the entire student email list, we were able to notify students about the new program," she says. “The program gave our students the confidence to shop with us because we were going to give them the best pricing possible – and these kinds of savings are crucial as we look for more ways to help reduce the cost for students,” she points out. The program’s introduction was also a bonus for the school. “It’s a great benefit of the program to see that these sales were staying on campus, and going back to Augustana's students,” Haslach says.

Faculty also benefit from the Company’s Price Match program with the exact cost of textbooks clearly visible to them at the moment they are making textbook adoption decisions for their classes when using FacultyEnlight. “We’re excited to partner even more closely with the schools and faculty we serve to help them realize their goal of increased student retention, graduation rates and overall student satisfaction,” says Guerrieri. “Programs like Price Match are just the latest way we are demonstrating that commitment.”

To learn more about the details of the Price Match program, click here.