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"We expect it will generate significant revenue for the university and do not believe it will harm our in-store sales," says Jason Lorgan, director of UC Davis Stores.
“We expect it will generate significant revenue for the university and do not believe it will harm our in-store sales,” says Jason Lorgan, director of UC Davis Stores. Credit: UC Davis

Traditional bookstores have long viewed Amazon as a competitor, and rightly so, but one university bookstore is figuring out what the company looks like as a partner instead.

The independent, nonprofit UC Davis Stores chain is working with the Seattle retailer on what’s being described as a “first-of-its kind online program” that gives the university a 2 percent slice of sales from a special UC Davis online storefront on Amazon.com.

The bookstore chain, with eight locations, says it will put at least $40,000 in proceeds from the Amazon store toward a textbook scholarship program, with additional funds going to other student initiatives and services.

Here’s the interesting part: “We expect it will generate significant revenue for the university and do not believe it will harm our in-store sales,” says Jason Lorgan, director of UC Davis Stores, in a news release issued by the bookstore on Tuesday.

Although the official announcement wasn’t made until now, the program actually launched last fall, as reported at the time by the National Association of College Stores newsletter and the Digital Reader news site. In other words, the statement from Lorgan is based on a few months’ experience.

Lorgan explained to the association newsletter that he was just being pragmatic. “We have all kinds of marketing programs to drive people into the store, but the truth is most college stores have about 50% market share today,” he said. “Do I want to get a small piece of that 50% I don’t have, or do I just want to give it up? Consumers have a lot of choices and all retailers have to adapt to the fact that they are just one of many options.”

The bookstore chain is no small operation, with more than $22.1 million in sales last fiscal year, and a net contribution of $1.23 million.

So could other bookstores follow suit? Yep.

An Amazon spokesperson tells us, “Our engagement with UC Davis Stores is a pilot and we plan to expand to additional schools over time.”

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