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Nook Tablet is On Sale Again for $90 (and Again and Again)

December 13th, 2012 by · 47 Comments · hardware news

Nook-Tablet[1]B&N is having yet another sale today on refurbished Nook Tablet, the umpteenth sale which they have had this year. This, folks, is a sign of hardware sales being in the toilet.

You can find it on Ebay for $90.

In the past week or so Amazon has put their new 8,9″ Android tablet on sale once, and then put all their Android tablets on sale a second time. This has led a number of people to question whether perhaps sales weren’t as good as people hoped.

I’m still waiting on data before reaching a conclusion about Amazon’s success or failure because I think that before we make such a claim we need to see a long string of sales – you know, like the ones which B&N keeps offering on their refurbished Nook hardware.

I stopped chronicling B&N’s many sales earlier this year (you can only cry doom so many times before it gets boring), but I that doesn’t mean I stopped noting them. Rarely has a fortnight gone by without a sale on one refurbished Nook device or another. While the sales have not been as spectacular as the two, count them two BOGO sales which B&N ran this spring, the sales on the refurbs have been ever present.

If you want to say that Amazon is seeing poor hardware sales then in comparison B&N would be at death’s door. And given that B&N’s quarterly financial statements rise only to the level of poor (but not terrible) I don’t see how  anyone can comment on Kindle Fire sales.

But after the holiday shopping season is over, and the retailers have totted up the books, then we might be able to say if one or the 0ther is in trouble.

P.S. If you are thinking about getting a Nook but don’t need it right away, I would wait until February or so. I would put hard cash on B&N repeating the BOGO refurb sales from earlier this year. Why get just one Nook Tablet when you can get them to throw in a Nook Touch as well?

 

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47 Comments so far ↓

  • fjtorres

    Come now, surely they’ll be out of the STRs by february!
    The BOGO will likely feature the Glo instead. ;)

  • steve

    I think it’s true that NOOK Tablet didn’t really perform quite as well as B&N might have hoped; still, it is a year old at this point, and B&N doesn’t even sell new NOOK Tablets or NOOK Colors anymore. B&N management clearly wants to turn the page and focus on their new line, and they’re not discounting those new devices yet, unlike Amazon.

    As a matter of fact, Target just sold out all their NOOK HD online stock.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      I’m pretty sure Target never sold the Nook HD, HD+ online. It’s only in stores. You’re welcome to search the website, sure, but buying one had to be done in store.

      • steve

        They did offer them online, and now they’re “currently unavailable” as of yesterday.

      • Paul

        Target was selling the Nook HD 16 Gb for $200 a few weeks ago (it didn’t take long for that to sell out online either).

  • Jimmy Suggs

    “This, folks, is a sign of hardware sales being in the toilet.”

    This folks, is a sign of a company trying to clear out the existing stock of their old product, now that they have a new one. Who’s gonna buy a Nook tablet when they can buy a Nook HD? People who only want to spend 90 dollars on a Nook, obviously. To me it makes perfect business sense. I can’t understand how one could jump to the conclusion you’ve jumped to. It’d be one thing if they were putting Nook HDs on sale for 90 bucks, then I’d be a little worried. But dropping the price on last year’s model (and refurbished ones, no less) to clean out the inventory? How is that anything but a good business strategy?

    In any case, since you’re willing to wait on the data for Amazon’s sales, you might wanna consider waiting on B&N’s data as well. Data seems to be rather important when it comes to making decisions, so I’d get as much as you can before making broad pronouncements. Just a thought.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      We have data on B&N’s sales. The many, many sales on refurbs tells me that B&N is seeing a high return rate.

      And right now the Nook Tablet is going through nearly the same process as the Nook Color went through last year, only with lower prices to boot. Hoe much do you want to bet that the Nook HD will go through the same steps next December, with even lower prices?

    • steve

      And this year their ecosystem is more complete, their devices are slicker and more polished, and they have two big third party channel partners committed to the platform this year in Target and Walmart. There is every reason to wait for data.

      • Nate Hoffelder

        Slicker and more polished? The Nook Tablet was pretty polished last year, and the Nook Color the year before. Look where they are now.

        And they already had the 3rd party channels last year – lots of them.

        • fjtorres

          B&N is doing a good job on the downstream side availability (B&M retailers to partner with) but their weakness is on the upstream side (apps and content).

          • Nate Hoffelder

            So long as they keep the Nook ecosystem locked down they will continue to be weak on apps and content. At the very least they will be weaker than the competition, and that could be the kiss of death.

          • fjtorres

            “It sure ain’t helpin’…”
            Just had a thought: in their hey-dey, B&N (and Borders) built their business on availability: “Stock it and they will come.”
            Now they are running their Nook business the same way: focusing on availability first and foremost. “ship it and it will sell.”
            One problem with focusing on broad availability is you get a lot of returns. And lots of returns means lots of refurbs–generally sold online–which competes with that broad distribution channels and generates returns of *new* product.
            They may have to rethink that “Nook everywhere” B&M strategy.

          • Nate Hoffelder

            I think you could be on to something. B&N could be running their supply system like all they carry are books. Those are returnable on terms which are more favorable to B&N than anything they can get for the rest of their stock, much less gadgetry.

            What if the reason they keep cycling through so many Nooks is that their system still haven’t adapted to the idea that it’s B&N’s pocketbook which gets dinged with each return?

          • fjtorres

            When you put it that way it does seem likely.
            There is a subtle difference between a product underselling (usually by being outdone by the competition or changing consumer interest) and a manufacturer overproducing.
            And in the book retail business it is a mortal sin to be caught without product during launch so over-production is the norm. *By design*.
            So if B&N is calculating how much a given product is likely to sell and *then* applying a fudge-factor to make sure they have enough… A fudge-factor from the book side of the business…
            Maybe its not that Nooks are selling poorly; maybe B&N management doesn’t quite understand the gadget life-cycle and expect them to have a long tail.

          • Nate Hoffelder

            I was thinking the high number of returns could be a sign of a flaw in B&N’s sales technique.

            A returned device is a device which should not have been sold to a buyer who should not have bought it. This doesn’t matter so much with a $10 book, but with a $200 gadget each return is a serious issue.

          • fjtorres

            Try this: I just saw a brand-new Target TV ad… featuring a Nook Color.
            Not the HD or even last year’s Tablet, but rather the Original Nook Color. They use coop ad money to move Nook Colors?!

        • steve

          Having retailers stock your product and having them really supporting it with prominent shelf space and promotions are different things. Staples and Best Buy, for example, stock NOOK products, but they haven’t given them any special support. I doubt sales through either of those channels have been anything special.

          This year both Walmart and Target have made NOOK the only ereader product they carry in their stores. That is a big deal for them.

          And by slicker and more polished, I mean that the NOOK HD is arguably a better product than the NOOK Tablet, which was just a NOOK Color with beefed up specs. The UI has been refined, content discovery has been thought out carefully, the browser now supports tabbed browsing and performs better than Silk. And then there’s the video service. In short, they do have some things going for them that they did not have last year.

  • cookie

    If only it had bluetooth.

    • steve

      I think it does (if it’s like the NOOK Color, which I own, it does) but only if you run a ROM. But even then it’s pretty weak, with a range of a few inches.

  • Jimmy Suggs

    “How much do you want to bet that the Nook HD will go through the same steps next December, with even lower prices?”

    Isn’t that the typical life cycle of today’s electronic item though? They begin at a premium price and lose value as time goes on. A year from now the Nook HD will be on sale and the Nook HD+ will be the premium tablet. This is pretty much standard for all tablets, phones and basically anything you can plug in these days. These constant pronouncements of death seem wildly premature at this point. Frankly this feels more like you WANT the Nook to fail, rather than coming to logical conclusion based on actual numbers. I have no idea why this would be the case, but many of your posts read like sour grapes. I realize this isn’t a news site and you’re a blogger, not a journalist. Which means you’re not required to be objective. But man, it really seems like you’ve got an axe to grind with some products. I always find it odd.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      A normal life cycle for gadgetry is for the models to get cheaper over time, and for some refurbs to show up online.

      BOGO sales are not part of the normal cycle, no. B&N did it twice this year, and I’ve never heard of anyone doing that before with tablets and ereaders.

      Do you know what makes this a truly weird situation for me? It’s that B&N keeps selling models which have uncomfortably high return rates. I keep thinking they will discontinue the older models, but they never do. Hell, the original Nook hung around into 2012. God only knows how long the Nook Color will stay.

      • steve

        Your point about refurbs are well taken, but this is part of B&N’s business strategy. The returns are of unsold inventory from third party retailers, not necessarily from end customers. B&N takes back unsold inventory from its third party channel partners and resells it as a refurb.

        http://seekingalpha.com/article/879161-why-wal-mart-chose-the-nook-over-the-kindle

        “…unlike bookstores which are allowed to return unsold titles to the publisher for a full refund, electronics stores and general merchandisers are rarely guaranteed returns by the manufacturer. When those types of stores have excess merchandise they wholesale it or throw it away. As a result electronic manufacturers have grown accustomed to overstuffing retail channels. It doesn’t matter if a large percentage of their product winds up at liquidation auctions instead of in the hands of consumers because the manufacturer has already been paid.

        But for this sort of wastefulness only make sense when the manufacturers charges a hefty markup on the hardware in the first place. Barnes and Noble doesn’t want to sell the hardware with a markup- they have a razor and blade business model that doesn’t work until the device ends up in the hands of an actual consumer. So they avoid channel stuffing. Take a look at the wholesale auctions from Best Buy at this website. You see a lot of Kindle keyboards, Motorola Xooms and Samsung Galaxies, but you don’t see Nooks.

        If you think about it, it actually makes more sense for Barnes and Noble to take back unsold inventory – the same way publishers have always taken back unsold books – and sell it at a loss as a refurbished unit then to let retailers wholesale or scrap it. That’s exactly what Barnes and Noble has been doing.”

        • Nate Hoffelder

          First, let me give you a reason why this is not a good strategy: it looks bad.

          If they have a supply chain which is knitted together so well then why do they have so many units being bounced back from the 3rd party channels? I would think that this well-designed system would have reduced the wastage by preventing excess stock from going out.

          Also, the units in this Ebay sale are indeed refurbs. The term used inside B&N to describe them is CPO, which stands for Certified Pre-Owned. They even have an internal price sheet which lists CPO units for all the past models.

          • steve

            Nate. I’m not sure that CPO necessarily means that it was returned by an unhappy customer rather than a channel partner. CPO might just mean it went through the inspection and certification process, the same process all returns would have to go through.

          • steve

            BTW I’m not saying all this refurb selling is optimal. I’m sure B&N would rather have sold all those NOOK news for full price and never seen them again. I remember reading that last year the B&N retail store NOOK sales were good, but the third party channel sales were disappointing. What they’ve done with the refurbs is make the best of a bad situation. Not only have they unclogged the channel for their new NOOK products, they’re making sure every working NOOK gets into the hands of a customer.

            Now let’s contrast this with Amazon. The Kindle got dropped this year by Target, by Walmart. Some people have interpreted this as a move against showrooming, but I think it had just as much to do with Amazon stuffing the channel, and then leaving their channel partners holding the bag. This is how they lost the two largest discount retailers in the US for Kindle distribution.

            I think B&N made a decision that they couldn’t allow that to happen to them; that’s why you’re seeing so many NOOK refurbs.

  • Isles

    One thing that hasn’t been mentioned yet: Barnes & Noble didn’t just start selling discounted refurbished Nook Tablets over these past few weeks, they have been selling them all this past year.

    B&N’s eBay account has that been pushing out both refurbished and new Nook Color, Nook Tablet, and Nook Simple Touch devices since last January. There was a new batch of devices listed almost every other week during the spring, and the prices dropped steadily as time went by.

    The “typical life cycle” that Jimmy described above may be true for other electronics, but not for the Nook. How do you explain an almost constant supply of refurb units being heavily discounted and sold from their eBay account? I don’t see any of their competitors offering a steady stream of returned devices like B&N.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      As I said in the post, I noticed the sales, though I was just tracking sales of the refurbs. They was usually at least one going on at any time.

    • steve

      Like I said, they were unclogging the channel. This was a smart strategic decision because it allowed them to win Target and Walmart over to their side.

  • Tablettes et liseuses : l’argent ne coule plus à flots !

    [...] Source pour la baisse des prix de la Nook Tablet : The Digital Reader. [...]

  • Jimmy Suggs

    Nate, you’ll have to explain the “oops” to from your latest post to me.

    Cuz I’m not at all sure how offering a 20 dollar gift card invalidates my point that B&N is just trying to clear old out stock to make room for new. You say “oops” as though that one fact totally ruins my argument, but again- you gotta show your math. You can’t just say “told you so” every time a company does anything that YOU consider a bad business move. We need facts and information and a reason as to WHY you came to that conclusion. Just say something doesn’t make it so.

    You need to explain your findings and tell us how you why you reached them.

    Otherwise it just reads (again) like sour grapes.

    Just a thought.

  • Fbone

    The ebay listing has been removed. No refurbs currently being sold on ebay.

  • Isles

    I don’t think that B&N’s decision to unload refurb units is a bad business move at all, but, as Nate pointed out, it just looks bad for their sales. Regardless of what qualifies as a “certified pre-owned unit,” the sheer number that have been available over the past year clearly isn’t a good sign. Customer returns, retailer returns of overstock, and defective returns; they are all returns.

    @Fbone these sales usually run for a few days and then a quota is met and the listing is removed, but, rest assured, a new one will be posted soon.

  • Mike Cane

    $20 Gift Card. I knew this would happen.

    Interestingly it doesn’t apply to the Glowlight.

    I doubt this is the pre-Xmas Final Sale. Let’s also see what post-Xmas brings.

  • Paul

    The $20 Gift card really costs them $10, so its a good trade as they will most likely spend it on high profit products like a new case (which is $24-$40). Hence they will make some money from it in the long run.

  • steve

    Not to beat the subject to death. What is the question here? I take the question, as posed by Nate, to be, “Why are there so many NOOK refurbs on the market?”

    This is a fair question because there are many refurbs on the market. He speculated it was caused by a high customer return rate.

    This is where I disagree with him. It’s because of channel returns. Channel partners were sitting on stock that wasn’t moving; B&N made a decision to take the inventory back and sell it themselves. In other words, the large number of refurbs is the result of an oversupply problem rather than a high customer return problem.

    That is the crux of the issue, as I see it.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      Why was never important to me. My only interest was that a lot of the CPO nooks were being sold. That indicates a higher degree of churn than for other devices.

      And I do not see how B&N’s channel partners could be sitting on a _lot_ of unsold stock; Walmart and Target are too smart for that and the integrated supply chain is supposed to prevent it. Also, how could that excess in stock keep happening? If there is an issue with the supply chain, why has it not been fixed?

      • steve

        Again, I disagree. C.P.O. status doesn’t mean it has to be returned from an end user. It just means a device when through the certification process, which doesn’t distinguish customer returns from channel returns.

        NOOK customer return rates would have to be astronomical to account for all the refurbs on the market. I doubt that problems on this scale could be hidden from the public or the newsmedia. But I have seen no signs to indicate higher than normal NOOK churn.

        Compare google search results for “Kindle return rate” and “NOOK return rate”. The Kindle return rate was rumored to be high enough that CNN even posted an article speculating about it.

        http://tech.fortune.cnn.com/2011/12/03/how-many-kindle-fires-are-being-returned-to-amazon/

        By contrast I have seen no commentary, not even rumors, that the NOOK return rates are above normal.

        As for why they haven’t fixed these oversupply problems; it seems to me that they’ve decided that capturing the low end of the market, and discounting like crazy, is better than sitting on the sidelines. I’m sure they’d prefer to sell at a higher price, but most likely they’ve made the calculation taht getting NOOKs out there, getting people into their ecosystem, makes sense in the long term.

        • fjtorres

          Sounds plausible.
          But if that really is their thinking, they need a re-think:
          1- Their market shake over the last three years has been flat at best
          2- “Getting people into their ecosystem” is costing a lot of red ink
          3- They are better ways of capturing the low end than with heavily-discounted refurbed tablets. Like, purpose-built low-end models. (They could always rebadge a generic crap-pad, for one.)

          Mind you, I agree with you that they do have an oversupply problem. I’m just not sure they are ending up with a seemingly endless supply of refurbs as a clever strategic move.
          (shrug)

          • steve

            I would call it making the best of a bad situation. The competition in seven inch tablets has gotten way worse since the NOOK Tablet came out, and I suppose they got caught with way more inventory than they wanted.

            As for taking the inventory back and selling it as refurbs, I think it is a smart strategic move in the sense of unclogging the channel, making way for the new stuff.

  • Mike Cane

    Given the massive margins all electronics have built-in, B&N is still probably making some bucks off this dumped hardware.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      What massive margins? Amazon is selling the Kindle hardware at cost, and B&N is probably selling for a margin which is almost as thin.

      And if the margins are so good then why did Augen, Itomics, and Pandigital go belly up?

  • flyingtoastr

    There is one simple thing Nate always forgets in his screaming about the upcoming death of BN.

    It takes a while to print 700 sets of signs for every BN store. From creation to shipment, about a month.

    In other words, while the continued sales on old CPO devices signal BN having too much inventory and the need to clear it out, any sale that has the stores replacing signage (such as the $20 gift card or free headphones) quite literally HAD to be planned long in advance. It isn’t a cry of desperation – it’s BN’s marketing strategy that they were planning on using this holiday season.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      You know, if you’re going to heckle me then you should at least read the post first.

      I didn’t say B&N is doomed. I said that their hardware sales were bad, and pointed at the frequent refurb sales as proof. I also noted that their financials are merely poor but not terrible.

      So long as B&N can keep their general financial situation from worsening they should be able to continue to survive up the poor hardware sales.

      • flyingtoastr

        Really? So posting that “B&N has taken one more step into oblivion” the last time BN had a price cut wasn’t you saying that BN was doomed? Or are you just being hipster metaphorical?

        Come on now.

        • Nate Hoffelder

          8 days ago I used the word oblivion, and 3 days ago I stepped back to simply saying that the hardware sales were poor but not necessarily the kiss of death.

          Hmm, maybe I rethought my previous claim.

  • Tyler

    Target is giving away $30 gift cards with the purchase of a Nook HD or HD+.

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