Posts Tagged ‘Barnes & Noble’

A book lover revives Barnes & Noble

January 2, 2023

Back in April, 2019, the Barnes & Noble bookstore chain was on the verge of failure.  Sales of both books and non-book products were down.  It had lost $18 million in 2018 and fired 1,800 employees.  Its stock price was down 80 percent from its previous high.

But now it is profitable and growing again, and has plans to open 30 new stores.  Ted Gioia, writing on his blog, The Honest Broker, credits the new CEO, James Daunt.

Back when he was 26, Daunt had started out running a single bookstore in London—and it was a beautiful store. He had to borrow the money to do it, but he wanted a store that was a showplace for books.  And he succeeded despite breaking all the rules. 

For a start, he refused to discount his books, despite intense price competition in the market.  If you asked him why, he had a simple answer: “I don’t think books are overpriced.”

After taking over Waterstones, he did something similar.  He stopped all the “buy-two-books-and-get-one-free” promotions.  He had a simple explanation for this too:  When you give something away for free, it devalues it. 

But the most amazing thing Daunt did at Waterstones was this: He refused to take any promotional money from publishers

This seemed stark raving mad.  But Daunt had a reason.  Publishers give you promotional money in exchange for purchase commitments and prominent placement—but once you take the cash, you’ve made your deal with the devil.  You now must put stacks of the promoted books in the mostvisible parts of the store, and sell them like they’re the holy script of some new cure-all creed.  [snip]

Daunt refused to play this game.  He wanted to put the best books in the window.  He wanted to display the most exciting books by the front door.  Even more amazing, he let the people working in the stores make these decisions

This is James Daunt’s super power: He loves books. 

“Staff are now in control of their own shops,” he explained. “Hopefully they’re enjoying their work more. They’re creating something very different in each store.” 

This crazy strategy proved so successful at Waterstones, that returns fell almost to zero—97% of the books placed on the shelves were purchased by customers.  That’s an amazing figure in the book business.

On the basis of this success, Daunt was put in charge of Barnes & Noble in August 2019.  But could he really bring that dinosaur, on the brink of extinction, back to life?


After B&N: a book-lover’s best alternative

August 1, 2013

When Borders opened its first super-store in the Rochester, NY, area, I felt I was in a book-lover’s paradise.  I could walk into the store looking for a specific books, not necessarily a best-seller, and have a good chance of finding it.  Not only that, but if I wanted to, I could sit down and read the book until I made up my mind whether I wanted to buy it or not.

The locally-owned new-book stores went out of business, but I didn’t care.  I thought it was a price worth paying.

A woman reads at a Barnes and Noble store in VirginiaThen Barnes & Noble came to town, with an even bigger selection of books than Borders, which eventually went out of business.  I thought that was great.

Now Barnes & Noble seems to be in trouble.  The stores in the Rochester area have the atmosphere of a business in decline—a smaller selection (at least of the kind of books I’m interested in), more non-book items.  What management seems most interested in selling is B&N’s Nook reader.

Many people, myself included, would hate to see Barnes & Noble go out of the mass bookstore business.  Click on 10 Ways to Save Barnes & Noble for some of their ideas to keep the bookstore chain going.

But you know what?  There’s another place in town with an even larger selection of books than Barnes & Noble.  There are more places there than B&N to sit down and read all day, if that’s what you choose.  And if you read something and decide to buy it on-line, that won’t make any difference.

I refer to the Rochester Public Library, which was here before Barnes & Noble came and I hope will be here many years to come.  Public libraries, like many other public services, are under attack these days.  That’s why I make an annual contribution to the Friends of the Rochester Public Library.  It would be sad to lose Barnes & Noble, but catastrophic to let the public library system decline.