Statement on Follett Bid to Operate Campus Bookstore at UMass Amherst

AMHERST, Mass. - The following is a statement from Paul Page, vice chancellor for administration and finance at the University of Massachusetts, concerning the recent decision to award a contract to operate the University Store and Textbook Annex to Follett Higher Education Group of Chicago:

"Each of the three bids submitted to operate the campus bookstore were thoroughly and fairly reviewed by a selection committee comprised of a cross-section of the campus community. In addition to financial return, bids were evaluated according to several other important criteria including options for employee retention, capital investment, corporate strength, expertise, and market position.

"The employee bid projected a greater than 50 percent increase over current sales at the end of the five-year contract period, with nearly a 20 percent increase in the first year. The recent sales history in the University Store as well as industry sales trend data, when coupled with the competition from e-commerce and other retail outlets, does not support this significant an increase. From FY94 through FY99, sales at the bookstore decreased more than 10 percent. Follett''s proposal projected a sales increase of slightly more than 31 percent at the end of five years and in general reflects more consistent long-term sales stability. The Follett bid also provides a minimum guaranteed annual payment that increases from $800,000 in the first year to $900,000 in the last year of the contract. The employee bid offers no such guarantee.

"The Follett proposal offers current employees fair and respectful employment, with the option of remaining University bookstore employees for the term of the contract or becoming Follett employees at their current salary and years of service, a competitive benefit package, and comprehensive training and development with opportunities for advancement.

"The number of campuses across the country contracting for management of their bookstore operations continues to grow. Follett offers a full range of products and services, with a textbook pricing policy comparable to our bookstore. The company has a substantial record of success at other institutions and is well-positioned to compete in a highly competitive and volatile market."