Following a bad holiday season and poor fiscal year, Barnes & Noble Chair Len Riggio gave an interview to the WSJ earlier this month concerning B&N’s future plans.
The company is still casting about for a solution to their predicament. In January of last year they announced plans to shrink for the next decade by closing 20 stores a year, but now that Riggio has replaced Lynch as head of Barnes & Noble it would seem that they are going to try for stores with smaller footprints.
WSJ: Will we see a smaller, 15,000-square foot Barnes & Noble bookstore one day?
Mr. Riggio: Yes, it’s possible. You can’t tell yet. Remember we had a really good holiday season. One of the things that you’ve observed is that it seems like the level of digital convergence from books to digital has decelerated. Having said that, a fairly substantial number of the big readers have digital reading devices.
The average B&N retail store is anywhere from 25,000 to 40,000 square feet (B&N College bookstores are a different case, rarely reaching 3,000 sq. ft) so this would be a step down for the stores.
This might be a sign that B&N has found a new way forward, but I wouldn’t get your hopes up. They still have not figured out how to price match their own website:
WSJ: Can Barnes & Noble sell all its books, online and in the bookstores, for one price?
Mr. Riggio: I wish we could. It’s kind of tough.…If you look at the retailers that are somewhat troubled, those retailers are the ones that are selling name brand products. There are a certain number of customers who say who has the best price? They’ll come into the retail store itself with their phones and hit the button…. The more you sell products that are branded outside of the store, that aren’t exclusive to the store, the harder it is. We don’t have a solution at hand. We haven’t come up with one yet.
Funny, Walmart figured this out a while ago, and so have most other retailers, and yet Barnes & Noble has been frustrating customers for over 5 years now.
I wonder if this is a symptom of B&N not being able to adapt to current retail market?