UK bookstore’s price matching could impact Kennedy’s business

Freshman Lauryn McNamara searches for books at Kennedy’s Bookstore in Lexington, Ky. on Jan. 13, 2016. Photo by Alex Otte | Staff.

Marjorie Kirk

To combat heavy competition with online retailers like Amazon and Chegg, the UK Bookstore will implement a new price matching initiative for textbooks.

Students who show a lower cost of the exact edition, format and condition of a book on Amazon, Chegg and can purchase it in the UK Bookstore, according to an email sent to UK students Jan. 7. This does not include books sold by individuals instead of the companies.

The bookstore is supplied by retailer Barnes and Noble, who supplies textbooks for hundred of campus bookstores across the country, according to the Barnes and Noble College website.

In addition to the price matching initiative that went into effect for the Spring semester, the UK Bookstore will allow students to exchange gift cards for Barnes and Noble cards that can be used in the store.

“The price match program is just the latest initiative in our efforts to ensure UK students have access to the most affordable course materials to ensure academic success,” UK Bookstore General Manager Dave Lang said in an email to the Kentucky Kernel.

Lang said price-matching will not cost the university, but there has been concern in the community that it could hurt the historic, family-owned bookstore Kennedy’s.

Carol Behr’s father Joe Kennedy founded the store to compete with the UK Bookstore and offer students cheaper books, according to Behr.

Behr said when the UK Bookstore transitioned to Barnes and Noble’s ownership their shelves were mostly filled with new books, which made Kennedy’s inventory of used books the cheaper option for students.

However, Kennedy’s location at Eastern Kentucky University suffered from competition with Barnes and Noble.

“They only let the students use their financial aid at the campus bookstore,” Behr said. “That cut us off, it was like herding everybody there. We couldn’t compete so we closed.”

When Behr heard Barnes and Noble was taking over the UK Bookstore, she met with Executive Vice President of Finance and Administration Eric Monday about how it would affect Kennedy’s business. Behr said Monday assured her the transition would not affect her business.

“UK has been good to us, because I think they know we provide good service and fair competition, by letting us have the financial aid, letting us have the plus account,” Behr said. “They could pull the plug on that tomorrow.”

Despite all of the UK Bookstore’s initiatives, Behr said she thought Kennedy’s would still be able to compete because the UK Bookstore’s prices would still be too high for students.

“If you’re OK to price match, don’t you maybe think your prices are too high?” Behr said.

Kennedy’s stays open as late as 8 p.m. some nights for weeks when students buy, rent and sell back their books in large numbers, at the beginning and end of semesters.