I visited Barnes & Noble's new bookstore today. It's located in one of the new urban-style developments that have been popping up in this area over the past decade (the B&N restaurant bookstore in Ashburn is in a similar development), but neither that nor the architecture, smaller footprint, or the interior design were the most interesting details.
Yes, at 8,300 square feet it was a lot smaller than existing B&N stores, and yes, it has a layout and interior design that is different from other stores, but that's not what caught my eye.
I really don't have much time to write today, but the biggest difference between this and older B&N stores is that this store is well-staffed and has uncluttered aisles.
I counted no less than 6 employees and managers when I was in the store, and I've never seen that many staffers at any one time in any of the B&N stores five times the size of this store. B&N is infamous for cutting staff hours, and firing full-time employees so they can be hired back at part time. This store, on the other hand, had more than enough people.
This store was also far neater and less-cluttered than the B&N stores I have visited. I am used to having to step around a cardboard bin of merchandise when I navigate a B&N store, but I didn't have that problem here. The aisles were clear, the end caps were not overflowing with unsellable stock, and the tables were not buried under books and knickknacks.
Here's why I bring up the staffing and stock levels: If B&N is testing a store concept that is well-staffed and uncluttered, why can't they try this with an existing store?
I mean, all it would take would be to ship a third of the stock back to the warehouse, and then stop firing employees (and rehire the experienced employees).
And yet, based on what B&N staffers are saying anonymously, that's not what B&N is doing.
What am I missing here?