Follett Higher Education Group (FHEG) hopes that you're not too cool for school. The company, in existence for more than a century, is the leading operator of campus bookstores in North America, supplying students and faculty with textbooks and other course materials through 930-plus bookstores. FHEG also provides about 1,600 individually managed stores with wholesale books and related services, such as point-of-sale management systems and buyback services, as well as store design and consulting services. FHEG offers apparel, software, textbooks, and more through its efollett.com, follettbooks.com, and cafescribe.com websites. The company is a subsidiary of educational materials wholesaler Follett Corporation.
FHEG, which manages more than 4 million sq. ft. of bookstore space company-wide, sold about 27.8 million textbooks in 2012, serving more than 5 million students and 500,000 faculty members each year.
To keep up with its growing business, FHEG in late-2011 announced that it has invested in a new 551,200-sq.-ft. distribution center in Aurora, Illinois, for both its wholesale and virtual bookstore businesses. It began moving its virtual bookstore operations to the new facility in November and expects the complete its move to the new facility by the end of 2013.
Feeling the pressure from deep-discounting online booksellers, FHEG in late 2010 rolled out textbook rentals at more than 750 company-operated stores and about 150 independently managed bookstores across the US. It also launched a textbook rental pilot program through its Follett of Canada subsidiary. Textbook rentals have gained popularity in recent years as students and their parents look for ways to pare college expenses amid tough economic conditions. While a new or used textbook can carry a price tag upwards of $75, a rental from FHEG costs about $40 for a semester. In its first year of operation the rental program -- called Rent-A-Text -- rented more than 4.5 million textbooks with estimated cost savings to students in excess of $215 million.
FHEG is also working to capture the attention of high-tech academics. While printed texts account for the bulk of orders, the company has been selling more digital-format books. Its CafeScribe application gives students and professors access to its library of more than 10,000 e-textbooks and allows them to highlight and take notes while studying.
In fiscal 2011 FHEG logged $382.2 million in consolidated e-commerce sales, up 7% from 2010's $357.8 million. The company's total text sales were $353 million, up 6% from $333.3 million in 2010. Rental sales during the same reporting period came in at $27.5 million, or nearly 8% of total text sales.
FHEG is a unit of Follett Corporation, a family-owned company.
Awards and Recognition
Among the largest private companies in the US, the company ranks 133 out of 500 in the Forbes Magazine listing. It also comes in at 12th in Crain's Chicago Business listing of the largest private companies in Illinois.