Should Barnes & Noble shift back to store-expansion mode?
Barnes & Noble looks to have stabilized and now plans to expand its store footprint next year, even amid an unpredictable economic landscape.
The book seller will debut 30 new stores in 2023, opening more than it closes annually after numerous years of net contraction, according to The Wall Street Journal. It now has around 600 locations, down from 726 in 2008.
CEO James Daunt told the WSJ that the chain now has the profitability and the confidence to start expanding again. The chain is opening some smaller locations where it closed larger B&N stores. In Boston, two stores will replace former Amazon Books locations.
In April, the bookseller reported 2021’s sales were three percent higher than pre-pandemic levels, with a 14 percent hike in book sales.
The improvement has been attributed to a revamp orchestrated by Mr. Daunt, who took the helm at Barnes & Noble in 2019 after successfully turning around U.K.-bookseller Waterstones. Mr. Daunt’s strategy has involved giving store managers more autonomy to choose titles that align with local tastes. Narrowing the mix to books, educational games, puzzles and workbooks, and reducing out-of-stocks are also part of the new focus.
Describing stores as “dull, unengaging and dispirited” before he took over, Mr. Daunt has also increased emphasis on smaller tables and wider aisles to encourage lingering.
Some newer stores feature full-height bookshelves arranged in a “maze” layout, harkening independent bookstores rather than the row-by-row alignment of many of the chain’s big box locations. Mr. Daunt told the WSJ, “It creates a completely different browsing experience.”
Barnes & Noble is also looking to build on the heightened interest in reading from customers who cocooned during the pandemic that also supported the continued revival at indies.
In recently announcing plans to return to Spectrum Center in Reston, VA after exiting in 2013, Mr. Daunt said, “The tide has turned for real booksellers, with both Barnes & Noble and independent booksellers opening new stores at an unprecedented rate after well over a decade of declining numbers. The return of Barnes & Noble to Reston is emblematic of this success.”
- Barnes & Noble Store Expansion Leads Big-Box Real-Estate Revival in 2023 – The Wall Street Journal
- Has Barnes & Noble turned the page? – RetailWire
- Barnes & Noble, once an indie killer, is losing out to mom-and-pops – RetailWire
- Amazon is shutting 68 retail stores, ending Amazon Books, 4-star and Pop Up shops – CNBC
- After shuttering nine years ago, Barnes & Noble plots return to Reston – FFXnow
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Is this the right time for Barnes & Noble to pursue an expansion of its physical retail footprint? What additional steps may be necessary for the chain to continue competing in today’s physical retail landscape?