Follett Corp. has bought Neebo, Nebraska Book Company's retail store division, which consists of more than 200 campus retail stores, almost all of them leased. The largest college store manager, Follett now operates more than 1,150 campus stores and 1,600 virtual stores. (By comparison, No. 2 B&N College, which will become B&N Education when it is likely spun off later this year, operates 717 college bookstores.) After the sale, Nebraska Book Co. has a wholesale division that rents and sells more than seven million textbooks a year and installs and supports tech platforms and e-commerce sites at more than 1,200 stores.
With the sale, Nebraska Book Company sold off its largest division, which with $184.7 million in revenue, accounted for 68.4% of the company's overall sales in the most recent period for which the company released financial information, the nine months ended December 31. It's also the only part of the company that had a gain in that period, with sales up 2.7%. By contrast, textbook revenue fell 10.7%, to $93.9 million, and "complementary services" fell 11.8%, to $13.2 million.
Nebraska Book Company said that the sale "underscores its full commitment of resources to providing textbooks, strategic services and technology products to independent college retailers nationwide." Ben Riggsby, interim president and CEO of Nebraska Book Company, added: "Independent college retailers are firmly entrenched in their community and deliver the best local retail experience. With strong market experience, access to textbooks nationwide and market leading solutions, Nebraska Book Company is extremely well positioned to champion the success of independent college retailers across North America."
For Follett president and CEO Ray Griffith, the purchase "underscores our belief in the value of the physical campus store and the role it plays in adding to each institution's brand and the local campus community experience. With the widest range of campus-specific course material and merchandizing options available, the local campus store is the cornerstone of Follett's flexible omni-channel retailing approach to meeting the unique needs of each campus community we serve."
Follett said it plans to hire Neebo's "store and retail field workforce and utilize many of the existing Neebo supplier networks." The Journal Star reported that 60 jobs would be lost at Nebraska Book Company headquarters in Lincoln. The company had earlier moved some operations to offices in Naperville, Ill.
Nebraska Book Company filed for "pre-packaged" bankruptcy in 2011 and emerged from bankruptcy the following year. At the time, it operated 251 college stores after shutting down almost all of its off-campus stores. It had signed up more on-campus stores, until about a year ago.