Barnes & Noble to Close Up to One-Third of Its Stores

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As of Jan. 23, Barnes & Noble (BKS) had 689 retail locations, as well as 674 college stores. "In ten years," chief executive Mitchell Klipper told The Wall Street Journal, "we'll have 450 to 500 stores."

That forecast assumes a closure rate of 20 stores a year, up from the average of 15 stores a year over the previous decade. Until 2009, the Journal notes, Barnes & Noble was also opening at least 30 locations annually. But the shift to digital books has reduced demand for bricks-and-mortar outlets, and development of new shopping malls has stalled.

Still, Klipper insisted, "it's a good business model," even after such a stark reduction in physical presence. "You have to adjust your overhead, and get smart with smart systems. Is it what it used to be when you were opening 80 stores a year and dropping stores everywhere? Probably not. It's different. But every business evolves."

 Barnes & NobleKlipper rejected as nonsense the notion that mainstream booksellers are destined for extinction. "You go to Barnes & Noble to forget about your everyday issues, to stay a while and relax," he said, explaining the chain's unique appeal among retailers. "When you go to Bed Bath & Beyond (BBBY), you don't sit down on the floor and curl up with your blender and your kid."

Some observers aren't convinced. "Anyone else feel the ghostly presence of Borders looming just behind your shoulder?" asked The Consumerist, which pointed out that the practice of not matching online prices "turns the entire store into a showroom that drives customers elsewhere."

The demise of Borders boosted Barnes & Noble in 2011, but holiday sales this year were down 10.9 percent at bookstores and online. Earlier in 2012, the company publicly acknowledged that its retail stores were benefitting "from market consolidation and strong sales of the Fifty Shades series" -- an ominous sign, given the ephemerality of blockbuster book trends.

A Barnes & Noble spokesman seemed to push back on the Journal's report without actually disputing the figures, telling Fast Company that the chain "has not adjusted its store closing plan whatsoever" and insisting that the new numbers "are consistent with analysts' expectations." The statement also spoke of retail innovations, noting that "Barnes & Noble opened two new prototype stores" in 2012 and "plans to test several other prototypes" in 2013.


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35 Comments

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John N.

Books? what are books? does anyone read anything anymore? except for their texts and emails on their Iphones blackberrys and tablet devices of course.What a shame. It's an ever-changing world. maybe Barnes & Noble needs to find a way to meet the demands of today's uber tech savvy world.

January 29 2013 at 11:56 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
wfreeberg

What is the purpose of high overhead retail stores when one can download to a NOOK or Kindle

January 29 2013 at 11:37 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

Oh, no!

January 28 2013 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John

Oh, no!

January 28 2013 at 7:08 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
amber4450

Worked at B & N for five years back in the 90's. Great people, great conditions. Especially loved the discounts on the books and Starbucks. Only problem was they paid booksellers crap. Finally had to get a grownup job. (sigh)

January 28 2013 at 5:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
brutony

I knew it-the end is near! B&N is going the way of Borders, Blockbuster, etc!

January 28 2013 at 4:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
spy741

I still like to go to book stores but all I see there is busy coffee shops and a lot of people using lap-top in there all day ! I'm sure these "coffee shop customers" will miss the book stores when they close.
Since I don't mind buying used books I'm fine with Amazon website. No need to pay B&N's price.

January 28 2013 at 4:27 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
heavennoseven

They are very overpriced. If they charged the same price as amazon etc. They would do a lot better.

January 28 2013 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mark

"...the practice of not matching online prices "turns the entire store into a showroom that drives customers elsewhere." This is a HUGE problem that for some reason B&N is deaf too. I like real books. I like Barnes and Noble. But I will never buy another book from one of their actual stores unless they change their policy. I wanted to buy a book at their store this past Christmas. On the B&N web site the book was $25 and at the store it was $55. The store would not honor their OWN online price. The clerk there basically told me to pound sand and said they need to charge more to keep the store open. Needless to say I did not buy the book there. I went home and bought it online. Every other store I shop at honors their own online prices. Many even price match other competitors' prices. As of now the B&N stores are a total rip off.

January 28 2013 at 3:12 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply
backstopbob89

When B&N kicked out all their writing, poetry, and book groups that met on our local store because of staff cutbacks, I was stunned. Hey, guys, we can put out and collect our own chairs...so why did you tell, oh, say, 100 people a month, especially people that you know read and write, that 'we don't want you coming to our store'? I still shop there - but not like I used to. Our B&N is a ghost town at night now, no energy, quiet like a library. I wish they were going to be there forever, but I wouldn't bet the farm on it.

January 28 2013 at 3:05 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply