McGill books a new partner
By Dave Yasvinski
McGill University is turning the pages of a new chapter in an interesting bookstore deal on its campus.
A contract recently formed at McGill University will see Chapters Bookstores assume control over the management of the current campus bookstore.
The American company, now the largest book retailer in Canada, will take charge of the business side of the store, said Phyllis Heaphy, VP-administration and finance at McGill.
The five-year contract began March 1, although Heaphy said she was not at liberty to discuss specific details of the deal. Last year, however, when McGill was considering outsourcing, Chapters promised annual revenues of $750,000 as part of a potential deal.
The store will keep its current employees, award them the same benefits and any proceeds made will go towards reducing the store's debt.
Heaphy said book prices will not go up under the deal. "McGill will maintain the lowest prices in Canada and hopefully the selection and service will improve."
A coffee shop, perhaps Starbucks, will also become a part of the store. "[Chapters] specializes in bringing people in," Heaphy said.
Tara Newell, president of the Students' Society at McGill, said the deal arose out of a need to improve the way the current bookstore did business. "While the store wasn't doing badly, it could be doing better."
McGill received proposals from several bookstore chains, Newell said, but the deal from Chapters was the most attractive.
"I'm not in favour of corporatization on campus but the store is not academic in its management. I guess I can't oppose it I just hope it doesn't start a trend," Newell said.
Horst Bitschofsky, general manager of McGill's bookstore, said although he didn't see a problem with the way things were operating at the store before the contract, he is happy that the staff will remain in place. "I respect the university's decision and we will continue to try and make this the best bookstore in Canada."
He added the contract delivers some good things for everybody and the important thing now is to maintain the good image the bookstore has already established.
Helena Aalto, director of marketing and spokesperson for Chapters, said she was very pleased with the new arrangement. "It is an excellent opportunity for both parties. It gives the bookstore a chance to concentrate on its core business education," she said.
Although McGill is Chapter's first university bookstore, Aalto said they are actively looking at management contracts with universities across the country as part of their new college bookstores division.