Follett Lays Off 10% of College Store Staff
On Friday, Follett Higher Education Group, which operates more than 800 college stores across the country, laid off approximately 600 employees, or about 10% of its store staff. The move was first reported by PW last night.
In a company-wide memo reproduced on thelayoff.com, Bob Scholl, senior v-p, retail operations, of the Follett Higher Education Group, said that the "important Follett initiative" was taken in part to "improve the experience of our customers" and "deliver the hassle-free shopping experience that our customers expect." With the firings, he explained, "we are adjusting our store staffing model to put more hours on the sales floor whenever students are shopping most. This involves shifting our ratio of full-time hourly and part-time store positions, and following scheduling practices to ensure our stores are always staffed at the busiest times. This shift gives us more scheduling flexibility each day, week and year. The result will be more customer-facing labor hours in our campus stores, generating more selling opportunities with increased customer satisfaction."
He acknowledged that being let go "will impact the associates in positions we are converting." The company is encouraging those former full-time employees to apply for part-time work and is offering cash severance and outplacement assistance and counseling.
Scholl called the layoffs "part of Follett's much broader and comprehensive transformation, which is reflected in the fact that we've invested more than $200 million in technology, distribution, digital content and ecommerce over the last three years alone. These investments are creating more efficiency at the store level, allowing us to deliver even more hours of store service and support when students and faculty expect it."
On thelayoff.com, current and former Follett employees said that the severance agreements include a clause prohibiting them from making negative comments about Follett on social media and, in some cases, required employees to attest that their firing was voluntary--meaning that they would be unable to obtain unemployment benefits.
Founded in 1873, Follett is a privately owned company with revenues of $2.7 billion. It boasts of being the largest college store operator in the U.S., ahead of Barnes & Noble College and Nebraska Book Company.