B&N Names First UK Retail Partner

Barnes & Noble has previously announced plans to launch the Nook Store into the UK in October, and today they decided to spoil the surprise by announcing the first retail chain to carry the Nook in the UK. It will be John Lewis, and they'll be selling the Nook and Nook Glow in all 37 department stores as well as on www.johnlewis.com. Curiously enough, there was no mention of the Nook Tablet and Nook Color in the press release. That makes me wonder whether B&N doesn't expect to have the Nook App Store ready in time.

There isn't much to today's news once you pare out the marketing BS, and if this had been a US retailer I would have passed on the story entirely. But as this is a UK partner it tells us a few details about B&N's lack of success in signing up retailers.

You can tell a lot by B&N's first partner. It's not one of the major chains (Tesco, Walmart/ASDA, Dixons). Instead it's a moderately successful smaller department store chain which, even though it's likely doing quite well financially, probably won't sell all that many Nooks.

Wake me when B&N announces a major retailer as a partner. Until they do that (and can get the Nook into say ASDA's 530 stores) I'd say that they don't really have a retail presence.  At least, not compared to their major competition.

The Kobo Touch is sold and promoted by WHSmiths, and the Kindle is sold by numerous UK retailers as well as sold and promoted by Waterstones. Those 2 devices have a decided advantage in the UK over the Nook. They have the home court advantage in having been sold there for years and they're already positioned  in exactly the spot where readers expect to find books.

B&N's going to have to find some way to match the presence of Kobo if they plan to gain market share.  Considering that B&N has had years of free marketing in the UK (Brits can go online) it's not impossible. But it will require more retail partners.

About Nate Hoffelder (11379 Articles)
Nate Hoffelder is the founder and editor of The Digital Reader: "I've been into reading ebooks since forever, but I only got my first ereader in July 2007. Everything quickly spiraled out of control from there. Before I started this blog in January 2010 I covered ebooks, ebook readers, and digital publishing for about 2 years as a part of MobileRead Forums. It's a great community, and being a member is a joy. But I thought I could make something out of how I covered the news for MobileRead, so I started this blog."

6 Comments on B&N Names First UK Retail Partner

  1. The only bit that made me boggle was the “minor department store” thing.
    What, John Lewis? It has a big online presence in the UK, and because of its afterservice and the reasonable, though not bargain basement, prices, is a go-to store for many, especially for homeware and electronic goods.
    Its reputation is for high-end, quality items. perhaps B and N want to position the Nook at that level.

  2. The deal with B&N isn’t even exclusive–John Lewis already sells Kindles and Kobo eReaders (http://www.johnlewis.com/Electricals/Kindle+and+eReaders/Category.aspx), so all they’re doing is adding one more eReader line.

    • Interestingly, they distinguish between Kindles and “ebook readers”.
      Their ebook readers pick only serves up Kobo.

  3. Kindles sell for £89 and £109
    Kobos for £79

    There may be a bit of room for an attractive price.

  4. Yeah, John Lewis is fairly well known here – at least in the places where it has stores. Its positioning is slightly upmarket stuff for the home – certainly its clothing ranges are pricey, but it often has good deals on electronic stuff. So I guess the push here is e-readers as lifestyle accessories.

    I still think B&N is wasting its time in the UK market unless it can come up with some really good, distinctive selling point. E.g. a really good selection of books available; a brilliant spec device at a low price; innovative hardware or software features; a reader that looks good and is really nice to use.

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