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Bookstore renovation hopes to provide an improved customer experience

On July 1, 2021, the University of Notre Dame announced that the bookstore’s management was going to be changed from Follett to Barnes & Noble College (BNC), a transition that has been in progress over the past 14 months.

“The renovation was completed in August 2022, and the newly remodeled Hammes Bookstore is open and serving guests,” BNC Regional Manager Derek Holbert wrote in an email.

The University decided to undertake this project with the goal of improving the experiences of students, faculty and visitors at the bookstore.

“We sought an elevated experience for faculty and students regarding course materials, and BNC answered this need,” vice president for University enterprises and events, Anne Griffith, wrote in an email.

Notre Dame’s partnership with BNC has paved the way for further networking, giving the University an opportunity to collaborate with Fanatics, Champions, Under Armour and many more.

“Through its strategic alliance with sports merchandise leaders Fanatics and Lids, BNC will help deliver an elevated retail experience for students, faculty and the Notre Dame community,” Holbert wrote. “Customers can discover expanded brands from Champion and Under Armour, to Johnnie-O, Peter Millar, Vineyard Vines, Dooney and Burke and female-founded jewelry line, Kyle Kavan.”

The bookstore’s collaboration with Under Armour. | Courtesy of Jenna Abu-Lughod.

Griffith added that students, faculty and visitors all seem to be thrilled and impressed with the changes to the bookstore.

“We’ve heard great feedback on new features and renovations, such as the bright and upscale décor, Hat Zone, Custom Zone, The Gilded Bean and fast-moving check out,” Griffith wrote.

First-year student Martha Cleary, who has lived in South Bend for four years, offered insight into the positive differences she has noticed since the renovation.

“One thing I noticed is the carpet used to be a much darker color than it is now,” Cleary said. “I feel like they really opened up the space and made it much more welcoming.”

Cleary also noted the change in the distribution of apparel on the two floors of the bookstore.

“There didn’t used to be any women’s items on the first floor, which meant women had to go upstairs to shop. The new layout, which has both men’s and women’s clothing on the first floor, is far more inclusive and convenient,” she said.

Another change Holbert expects to be beneficial to Notre Dame students and faculty is the addition of social spaces.

“The social spaces placed throughout the bookstore provide intimate spaces for community gatherings,” Holbert wrote.

A social space located on the second floor of the Hammes Bookstore. Credit: Jenna Abu-Lughod | The Observer

Holbert said another prominent student-specific renovation is the introduction of new course materials and resources that are accessible to all.

“BNC offers students access to course materials across multiple formats to meet any student’s needs or budget, which we believe will benefit our students greatly,” he wrote. “This includes more than one million digital titles, a flexible rental program with the most expansive title list in the industry and access to the nation’s largest used textbook exchange.”

Similarly, BNC’s “Adoption and Insights Portal” is a new resource intended to specifically benefit faculty. It will allow faculty to “easily research and choose affordable course materials,” Holbert wrote.

More new features intended to improve fan and visitor experiences include convenient delivery options, the Custom Zone — which allows fans to customize one-of-a-kind hats, easy self and mobile checkout technology, and digital and analog wayfinding signs.

The Hat Zone and Custom Zone allow customers to make one-of-a-kind hats. Credit: Jenna Abu-Lughod | The Observer

“With new self and mobile check-out technology, customers can check out via their phones on the sales floor, making it easier than ever to bring home the best of Notre Dame books, gifts and apparel,” Holbert wrote. “New delivery options allow customers to purchase in-store and have their items shipped home, picked up after a game or delivered to their hotel. This offers Fighting Irish fans the convenience of purchasing products without needing to carry them around during games.”

Griffith and Holbert both emphasized that the management transition not only involved major changes to Notre Dame’s five bookstore retail properties but also to its online order fulfillment center.

“With BNC’s strategic omnichannel merchandising partnership with Fanatics and Lids, Notre Dame will have the most innovative merchandise and apparel programs available in the college market, as well as cutting-edge online and mobile accessibility,” Holbert wrote.

New self-checkout technology located in the Hammes Bookstore. Credit: Jenna Abu-Lughod | The Observer

However, according to Holbert, one of the most beautiful changes is in the actual design of the bookstore.

“Inspired by Notre Dame’s historic campus architecture, specific design elements were added to pay tribute to the look and feel of other campus landmarks including gold metal finishes that mimic the design of the University’s Basilica,” he wrote.

Contact Jenna Abu-Lughod at jabulugh@nd.edu.