Posts Tagged With: Barnes & Noble

Is Barnes and Noble a Lost Cause?

I hope not, but after what went down last week that involved firing 1800 full-time employees, things don’t look good. Almost four years ago, I wrote about Barnes & Noble reinventing itself (which was a rewrite of a 2013 post).

Yet little has changed, and much has gotten worse.

Amazon is opening stores, indies have thrived, but Barnes and Noble continues to falter. It seems bound and determined to hold on to this sell-everything-do-everything model from yesteryear. Even Wal-Mart doesn’t do that anymore. Just closing stores and cutting people – without changing your model – doesn’t promote longevity. Just ask Sears and Kmart. Barnes and Noble should be doing this:

Focus on strengths. Narrow the focus back to basics. Be the local, neighborhood bookseller.

Not fire your most experienced people.

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“Death of the Bookstore Was Greatly Exaggerated”

With the growth of e-books, the demise of Borders and the shrinking of Barnes & Noble, some thought the bookstore was on its way out. Personally, I disagreed with that sentiment: Anything that skyrockets so fast (e-books) can only come down, the big chains had over-saturated with too many (and too big) stores, and no matter how good on-line shopping becomes, one can still peruse far more books, faster, in person. Sure, I like the best of both worlds, and considering Amazon is opening brick and mortar stores, they get it too.

Lev Grossman wrote “The Death of the Bookstore Was Greatly Exaggerated” in the June 30th issue of Time on the growth of independent bookstores and their sales, at the same time big chains continue to contract. He mentions this revival of indies is in part due to “…new technology [that] makes things like accounting and inventory management easier for small stores. The growth of social media makes it easier to promote events. The demise of the Borders chain in 2011 had the effect, in some markets, of taking competitive pressure off indies.”

Another major part of this growth, I think, is that book buyers have always supported bookstores and the market has never shrunk quite as much as claimed. Borders didn’t simply fail because no one was buying books, they failed more from a poor business model. Barnes & Noble should survive — and I hope they do — if they continue to return to their roots. In other words, they need to be their neighborhood bookstore, not seen as just a big chain.

Authors aren’t overly concerned on how you read their book, on paper or on a screen, but we may have now reached a balance in the market of options. However, Grossman says it best when it comes to the old-school way:

… the paper book – a piece of information technology that has, after all, been tested and honed over the past 2,000 years – has declined to give way that easily.

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Indie Bookstores “Rise Again”


According to the American Booksellers Association, the number of member independent bookstores has increased more than 20 percent since the depths of the recession, from 1,651 in 2009 to 2,094 in 2014. Meanwhile, Borders went bankrupt in 2011, and the fate of Barnes & Noble, which failed to make the Nook into a viable e-reader competitor with Amazon’s Kindle, appears murky. What happened?

Independent bookstores never had to answer to the dictates of public markets. Many of their proprietors understood, intuitively and from conversations with customers, that a well-curated selection—an inventory of old and new books—was their primary and maybe only competitive advantage. In the words of Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, “The indie bookselling amalgam of knowledge, innovation, passion, and business sophistication has created a unique shopping experience.”

In other words, the Big Guys got too big too fast and tried to be too much to too many people. People want bookstores, not warehouses.


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What will 2014 Bring for Publishers and Authors?

Joe Konrath makes his predictions for the publishing business in 2014. He makes many viable points about the growing indie market, though I disagree that Barnes and Noble is finished, and I detailed in a post earlier this year on how they can succeed. Have they taken up my suggestions? Not yet, but it will be interesting to see how they fared over the past few weeks with amped up advertising and as the prime bookstore chain going into the end-of-year Retail Armageddon.

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Barnes and Noble: The New Local Bookstore?

While authors rely more and more on ebooks and internet stores to reach their audiences, bookstores still deliver millions of books to readers. Many readers, like myself, like the best of both worlds. The ease and savings of home delivery pioneered by Amazon is unbeatable, but no matter how good they are in linking you to other books, it’s still easier to browse in a bookstore. Rarely do I walk in a bookstore and don’t find something new. So why did Borders go under? And now Barnes & Noble is announcing more store closings.

Much of the bookstore industry’s woes have been blamed on the growth of ebooks. An equal, if not bigger, part of the problem is that the chains got too big, too fast, especially Borders. Barnes & Noble had the superior model, better selection and stayed closer to a local bookstore feel. But it too became too big. It entered the ebook reader market a bit late. With the demise of Borders, however, it’s essentially the last man standing. Its recent announcement is only a continuation of ongoing plans to stay afloat. I predict it will succeed, if it takes steps to return to its roots. Be more focused and become known as the local neighborhood bookstore, rather than the local national chain bookstore.

Many retail stores are getting this concept. And while Borders vanished, and Barnes & Noble started cutting, indie bookstore numbers stayed steady. What can B&N do to become the new face of local for readers? Here’s my plan:

1. Make that regional and local book section more prominent. Expand it. Make your store the one stop place for anyone looking for local authors and books on area subjects.

2. Ditch the cafes. Never stepped foot in one. You’re a bookstore. Yes, there’s people who like to hang out in them, so farm them out to someone else. Like Panera Bread.

3. Indie books and indie presses have grown rapidly in recent years. Ebooks are their main outlet because they still operate outside traditional distribution networks. Change this. Get their books in your stores.

4. Ditch the music and movie section. If ecommerce has hurt book sales, it has done more so for these other two. Save a spot for local artists, toss the rest.

5. Enough of the $20 membership fee. Virtually no one charges for their loyalty cards.

6. Keep cutting unprofitable stores, but don’t pass up chances to open new, smaller stores in areas with a bookstore vacuum.

7. The kids learning toy section and the games area are the best non-book items you have. They are better quality than what we find in department stores. But how many people know you sell this stuff? Your kids book section blows everyone, even Wal-Mart, away. Tell people.

8. Stay on the forefront of the ebook revolution. The initial growth may be hitting its peak, but they’re here to stay.

9. Overall, your selection, style, arrangement and size of stores isn’t bad. Use your strengths as a national chain, but operate like a local store. Each market is different. Be able to respond and provide at an individual store level. Let them know you are there.

Be like the stores of old. Books will never die, nor do you have to.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

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