Barnes & Noble, the largest retail bookstore chain in the U.S., is changing how it operates stores—by giving managers more control to personalize their locations.
- Since 2019, the brand has changed how it operates and builds new stores. It is changing the feel of its locations, allowing individual franchises to shrink their inventory and floor plan to create a more personal, intimate, and individual feel for each store location.
- CEO James Daunt says tells The Wall Street Journal that the move is part of an effort to make the company more competitive with Amazon, highlighting the benefits of brick-and-mortar locations, such as personal assistance from employees and the chance to browse different books.
- The company also gives individual locations more decision-making power to decide which books to stock and how to handle promotions, allowing locations to be more personalized.
- Daunt says managers are most eager to stock romance novels, black history-related books, and manga, which attract the most customer attention.
Why It’s Important
Barnes & Noble set itself apart in the bookselling market by making its stores uniform and massive, offering coffee shops, multiple floors of books, and extensive selections to attract customers. This model allowed the company to open 600 locations with familiar aesthetics and inexpensive prices.
The model’s success damaged the independent bookstore industry and put thousands of smaller privately owned stores out of business.
As The Wall Street Journal reports, this model was quickly threatened by the rapid growth of Amazon selling a more extensive selection of inexpensive books by mail. The company has seen a consistent decline in revenue since 2012.
Daunt became CEO of Barnes & Noble in 2019, having previously used this personalized strategy to save the U.K.-based bookseller Waterstones. The strategy will also involve opening a net increase of 30 new stores this year.
“Barnes & Noble is adopting the strategy of independent bookstores it once put out of business,” says Wall Street Journal reporter Kate King.