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 nation's largest operator of campus bookstores, supplying students and faculty with textbooks and other course materials through more than 930 bookstores. FHEG also provides 1,600-plus 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 sites. Formed in 1999, it's a subsidiary of educational materials wholesaler Follett Corporation.
Illinois-based FHEG operates across North America.
FHEG, which manages more than 4 million sq. ft. of bookstore space companywide, sold about 27.8 million textbooks in 2012, serving more than 5 million students and 500,000 faculty members each year.
Sales and Marketing
The firm partners with the likes of Maryland Community College, Connors State College, Atlanta Metropolitan State College, Northwest College, and Smith College.
Specifically, clients placed some 6,500 orders through its efollett.com website.
To keep up with its growing business, FHEG has invested in a new 551,200-sq.-ft. distribution center in Aurora, Illinois, for both its wholesale and virtual bookstore businesses. In 2014 it also consolidated three offices into its Westchester, Illinois, facility.
Feeling the pressure from deep-discounting online booksellers, FHEG offers textbook rentals at its company-operated stores and 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 down college expenses. While a new or used textbook can carry a price tag upward of $75, a rental from FHEG costs about $40 for a semester. In its first year in 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 2013 it launched a tablet-optimized application of efollett.com to make it easier for students with tablets to access and purchase course materials, supplies, and general merchandise. The move boosted orders from consumers with tablets by more than 30% as compared to the year earlier.
In fiscal 2013, FHEG's consolidated e-commerce sales increased by more than 10%.
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.