Considerations for Outsourcing the University Bookstore

Topics: Bookstore, Auxiliary Enterprises, Administration and Finance, Outsourcing, Administrative Service Delivery Models

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Research Questions

  • What were the financial factors (e.g., budget cuts) that motivated administrators to consider outsourcing the university bookstore? Was the bookstore financially viable before it was outsourced?
  • What were the principle terms of the outsourcing contract with the third-party vendor (e.g., were only high-margin product revenue considered in compensation models)?
  • How were staffing structures streamlined or significantly modified after the transition?
  • What modifications were made to the bookstore’s space, and how did that alter the bookstore’s operations?
  • How did administrators preserve or improve the relationship between the bookstore and faculty members, who must communicate their required texts in a timely manner?


Outsourcing the university bookstore to a third-party vendor reportedly reduces the risks a university would otherwise incur by managing a retail operation. This brief profiles four public institutions that outsourced the university bookstore and one institution that chose to maintain a university-managed bookstore. Based on the experiences of the four universities that outsourced, this brief outlines the vendor selection process, compensation models agreed upon by both parties, and key contract stipulations. Additionally, the brief evaluates student and faculty satisfaction with the transition and describes reported motivations both for outsourcing and for maintaining a university-managed bookstore.

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