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B&N Responds to the Doom & Gloom

January 29th, 2013 by · 18 Comments · opinion

Late yesterday B&N released a response to the WSJ article which reported that B&N is in the process of shrinking down to only 500 retail stores. I’m awfully busy this week with a conference but I wanted to chronicle another misstep on the part of B&N. Here’s what Business Insider quoted as B&N’s response:

“Barnes & Noble has not adjusted its store closing plan whatsoever.  The Wall Street Journal article implies that our rate of store closures has changed.  We have historically closed approximately 15 stores per year for the past 10 years.  Of that number some of the stores are unprofitable while others are relocations to better properties.  The numbers reported today by the Wall Street Journal are consistent with analysts’ expectations.  It should be noted that in 2012, Barnes & Noble opened two new prototype stores and in 2013 plans to test several other prototypes, as well. Barnes & Noble has great real estate in prime locations and the Company’s management is fully committed to the retail concept for the long term.”

Yeah, I think someone at B&N missed the point.

It wasn’t the rate at which B&N was going to shrink down to irrelevance that shocked me. I was more concerned that B&N saw it as a viable strategy.

What they should have said in their response was a real viable retail strategy. The fact they did not mention one is a strong sign that they don’t have one.

Yes, B&N is doomed.

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18 Comments so far ↓

  • Ian

    Nate you really have a dislike of B&N don’t you, it appears nothing they say or do is good, Its not uncommon for a company during a time of change to to restructure themselves, prune the dead branches. I think it would be a sad day if B&N failed, We need competition in the book selling world. If we just had your beloved Amazon, prices would be double and hardware would be rubbish.

    • Nate Hoffelder

      Amazon is not my beloved; they’re just the only competent player in the ebook market.

      • Bodestrade

        I strongly disagree. BN is the competent leader in the ebook market. Amazon does not have as many titles, or relationships with publishers for that matter. BN is the only company in the ebook market with their very own in-house (and dare I say intelligent?) staff and a solid all-inclusive product without ads. Did I mention face-to-face customer service? What Amazon has is an overpriced, gimmick ridden device with no support and limited content availability. Vivat NOOK.

        • Nate Hoffelder

          Given that B&N is bound to report bad Nook news tomorrow I can’t help but wonder if this is a joke.

          Amazon may not have the relationship with publishers but that’s okay because they have the better relationship with _customers_ and with self-pub authors.

          As for size, there comes a point somewhere after the couple million titles mark that it stops mattering.

          And if B&N is the competent leader, then can you tell me what kind of a market share they have in Europe? And if B&N’s product is so solid then why is no one buying the Nook hardware?

          • flyingtoastr

            Not that I disagree entirely (BN isn’t the market leader against Amazon by any measure, excepting perhaps hardware), but saying “how’s BN in Europe?” is like asking “how’s Amazon in Russia?”. It’s a market that they’ve never been in before and have only just begun penetration in, you can’t expect huge things yet.

          • Nate Hoffelder

            I disagree. Amazon took the Kindle store international in 2009 and is at least trying to sell ebooks in Russia. B&N, not so much.

    • Mike Cane

      >>>If we just had your beloved Amazon, prices would be double and hardware would be rubbish.

      *snort* So you expect Apple, Google, and Kobo to get out of eBooks? Puhleeze. Not even Sony has bailed, and they seem to have more reason to exit than Barnes & Noble.

      • Mike Cane

        I should also add there are eBook entrants I tend to forget, like Samsung and even Nokia. And will RIM have them too? Asus seemed to have something at one point too. eBooks are easy for anyone to do these days. Least expensive business to enter with easy margins because it’s more customer convenience than central profit center.

  • Mike Cane

    >>>in 2012, Barnes & Noble opened two new prototype stores

    Has anyone seen these? Where are they? Anyone have pictures?

  • Amazon Loses More Money, Investors Cheer | Digital Book World

    [...] conducted along with Writer’s Digest. (Don’t want to wait? Pre-order the full report today.)   Barnes & Noble Still Doomed? (The Digital Reader) Following a flurry of buzz about reports that Barnes & Noble will be downsizing to 500 or so [...]

  • Bill

    You seem to have a hard-on for B&N. Your reporting seems to revel in B&N’s shortcomings, and take glee in its potential demise.

    Were you a former employee at B&N?

    Your blog entries are arrogant, smug, vindictive, and endlessly negative.

    Yes, B&N has made missteps. Major ones. But Amazon is not perfect. I refuse to buy their ad-packed Kindle that doesn’t even come with an adapter to charge it in the wall. The nook is vastly superior to the Kindle. It’s better looking, less costly, and is supported by in-store reps.

    B&N is an over-priced store. No doubt about it. Their prices are full MSRP on books, DVDs, and CDs. That will be their downfall, not eBooks or the Kindle. Their own arrogance and reluctance to get aggressive with pricing will be the end of their retail stores.

    Oddly, B&N gets it. I know they do because their online prices are much closer to Amazon’s. So they’re obviously driving people online and away from their retail stores. That’s odd in itself, really. They’re shooting themselves in the foot.

    But one cannot meet up for coffee and a sandwich and a book-club meeting at Amazon. So, for everyone’s sake, B&N has to find a way to survive. It’s one of the last places to gather together to talk about literature, writing, or one’s day at the office without blaring TVs, yelling sports fans, and beer bimbos named Kimberly trying to sell you cheese sticks and Tall-Boy brews.

  • Penny Sansevieri

    Nate’s assessment isn’t far flung at all. We all love bookstores but let’s face it, in an age of big box stores with sizable book departments and online access to anything, instantly, bookstores have a rough road. I just wrote about this on my blog, too. Seems to be pretty top of mind these days. Also, BN had a rough Christmas. Not sure they can take another holiday shopping season like the one they just had. See: http://www.amarketingexpert.com/what-happens-if-bookstores-go-away/

  • Greg M.

    As a former bookstore employee (in the 80s and 90s) and some one who reads about 100 books per year and currently about 5 minutes from a suburban B&N store on my lunch hour, my chances of buying from that store are slim. There just isn’t a wide enough range of stock on the shelves to capture my interest and I read from almost all genres and non-fiction: no YA, Romance, or Series. If I worked or lived closer to a shop like Eliot Bay in Seattle, I would spend time and money there. But not B&N. So what can they do to win me over as a customer? Do they even care?

  • Publerati

    The key point is that as demand for printed books declines, the retail space needed for them is far less than what B&N now has. That projection from them seems very optimistic compared to how quickly Blockbuster, Circuit City, CompUSA, Fotomat and other retailers closed all their stores due to technology disruption in their categories. The publishing industry does seem to have far more dug-in denials than I personally saw working in other fast-changing industries where the “new, new thing” is always coming. B&N truly is stuck in a horrible place with new tech investments needed while operating over-sized stores. Possibly they will test new prototypes of smaller stores, just as the retailers I mention above did before closing. I do not think Nate is being vindicative but merely doing his part as an objective journalist, which I find refreshing. (I have no connection to B&N or Nate by the way.) I am not a fan of the WSJ either but thought their article was one of the best on the story in casting doubts on what B&N believes will happen.

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