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Inside B&N’s Newest Smallest Bookstore in Fairfax, VA

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?

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DaveMich April 25, 2019 um 1:33 pm

If it’s a prototype store, or even just a "new type of store" it probably falls under a different part of the management structure. If it’s not being administered by the people who run the big stores then they get to do things differently. One hand probably isn’t clued in on what the other hand is up to, and based on my cynical view of the way the big stores are run, I would guess that the big store management doesn’t care what the new stores are doing.

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