Scores of experts have predicted a premature end to Barnes & Noble. Amazon has made buying print and ebooks so easy and cheap, it is hard to imagine why anyone would venture out to a real bookstore. Cozy chairs and aromatic coffee notwithstanding, the appeal of a chain bookstore like Barnes & Noble has seemed to diminish over the past few years.
Surprisingly, B & N has taken a turn for the better. Its same-stores profit rose by 1.3 percent in the third quarter of 2015, and it plans to close fewer stores than previously projected. The book retailer is set to close only eight stores in 2016, representing its smallest number of store closures in the past fifteen years!
Another good sign is the retailer’s reported plan to open four concept bookstores in 2016. Those stores will probably mimic Amazon’s brick and mortar store, allowing patrons to peruse the books before ordering them online. The company’s CEO, Ron Boire, has been quoted as saying that the stores will provide the digital experience, connecting mobile, desktop, and store.
B & N has avoided an early death by employing several strategies. One, to the dismay of many book lovers, is its expansion to selling products other than books. The store has always sold extras, but now sales of goods such as music, toys, and games have risen by 12.5 percent. The jump indicates B & N’s growing awareness of its customers’ preferences.
B & N is also fortunate that ebook prices have risen, creating a rebound in the sale of physical books. In 2015, sales of ebooks dropped, while sales of paperback books rose by 13.3 percent. Print books are back in the good graces of readers, who are leaving ebooks behind.
Altogether, book stores are doing well in the United States. The American Booksellers Association reported that the number of new bookstores grew by more than 25 percent in the past six years. Sales have also increased, even though independent bookstores often sell books at higher prices than Amazon.
Amazon’s plan to open more real bookstores is further proof of B & N’s solidity. Amazon wants to give consumers the benefits of both online and retail shopping, possibly because it recognizes that shopping is more than just a transaction involving the exchange of money for goods and services. Shoppers appreciate books, knick-knacks, and relaxing with a cup of coffee–a winning combination that B & N already offers.