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Barnes & Noble is Vacating the Nation’s Capital

5046355996_b5dd60a9d8_bFor the past couple years B&N has been closing stores rather than renew expiring leases and pay higher rents. This has left many parts of the US without a big box bookstore, and now DC is joining the destitute.

The Washington City Paper reported on Friday that B&N’s sole remaining store in DC will likely shut down at the end of the year. The lease is expiring at the end of the year, and the landlord has decided to replace B&n with a tenant that can pay a higher rent.

"Despite our best efforts to come to an agreement with the property owner to extend the lease, they have decided to move forward with another tenant and the store will close at the end of December," said David Deason, the B&N VP of Business Development. "The Washington, D.C. community is extremely important to us. We are looking at replacement locations and hope to have a new store there in the near future."

2748564398_86b2f589a8_bLocated on the ground floor of the Thurman Arnold Building (555 12th St. NW), this store was the last of B&N’s two stores in DC following the Union Station location closing in 2013. B&N still operates several bookstores on college campuses, so technically they have not left the region. But those are college and not retail bookstores, so B&N has still left the market.

B&N’s store was predeceased by Borders, which closed both of its DC stores when it went bankrupt in 2011, and by Books-a-Million, which shut down its DC store in July 2015.

The B&N store will be survived by a bevy of competing independent bookstores as well as by Amazon, which has no physical store but sells book and offers same-day and next-day delivery.

And no, that’s not a plug for Amazon; as one commenter pointed out on the WP article, B&N is abandoning the market to its online competition:

So, Books-a-Millon closed at Dupont Circle and now Barnes and Noble will be gone from D.C. leaving no big retail booksellers in the city. While indie bookstores are great, they tend to cater to niche audiences and/or the literati. What’s great about the big chains is that they cater to everyone and you can browse and find surprises and gift ideas you never expected. I am not going to venture to the suburbs to try to find a bricks and mortar store, especially given Metro’s dysfunction. So, I guess I’ll be ordering all my books online now.

They’re not wrong.

Thanks, Paul! Thanks, Steve!

images by Mr.TinDCMichael M. S.


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Bridget McKenna October 11, 2015 um 12:04 pm

"The Washington, D.C. community is extremely important to us. We are looking at replacement locations and hope to have a new store there in the near future."

This reminds me of the "Closed for Remodeling" sign that always portends the demise of your favorite restaurant or bar. I’ll be interested to know if they really do find another location or just slink out of D.C.

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Sandra Parshall October 11, 2015 um 3:20 pm

B&N has a wonderful store in the Bethesda Row neighborhood in Bethesda. They also have a huge store in the Tysons Corner (McLean, VA) mall. Since the majority of people who work in the District live in the suburbs, they are hardly going to be without access to B&N stores.

fjtorres October 11, 2015 um 5:53 pm

Uh, does that mean the actual DC residents don’t work? 😉
Or that they should head off to Virginia to buy books?
More seriously: DC has 650,000 residents and they can’t support a single B&N?
So, what’s the minimum population base needed to keep B&N in town?

Steve October 11, 2015 um 5:57 pm

Actually, Sandra, there are more than 600,000 people who live in the District and work here (like me). For many DC residents, commuting to Tysons or Bethesda to buy a book is daunting, when they can order titles online and have them delivered. Neither Tysons nor Bethesda should be considered a viable DC locations. That’s like saying the stores in Manhattan can all close because there’s a location in Astoria that everyone would be happy to go to instead.

It is bewildering to me that B&N isn’t fighting to stay in the city that is consistently ranked the most literate, with the highest per capita book sales, of anywhere in the country. The suburbs simply do not deliver that kind of a market.

Bridget McKenna October 11, 2015 um 6:22 pm

"So, what’s the minimum population base needed to keep B&N in town?"

B&N has been letting stores close as their leases expire for quite a while now. Possibly they don’t see DC as a market worth holding on to. It wouldn’t be the first city they’ve pulled out of.

Sandra Parshall October 11, 2015 um 7:02 pm

Obviously a lot of DC residents won’t go to a downtiwn B&N to buy a book, any more readily than they’ll go to Bethesda. Politics & Prose and Kramerbooks seem to be more popular than the big chain store. Both have many devoted patrons, and they offer better service and a friendlier atmosphere.

Liz October 12, 2015 um 10:35 am

B&N leadership is just so disappointing. Am I the only one that senses that there is so much dysfunction on a corporate level that I have to wonder if the right hand even knows what the left hand is doing? I love B&N stores and don’t want them to go the way of Borders but they just seem so directionless. It’s so hard to watch.

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