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The Corpse Twitches

Barnes and Noble continues trying to give signs of life, and looking more and more like a corpse twitching long after it’s dead.

The new stores will be about 14,000 sq. ft., making them roughly 12,000 sq. ft. smaller than the chain’s typical stores. “Twenty-six thousand square feet is too big,” Parneros said, adding that the current locations “were built a long time ago.” Parneros said the smaller stores will be easier to staff and run and fit better with B&N’s omnichannel sales approach. (The omnichannel approach encourages customers to buy books at the store, online, or on a digital reading device.)

The prototypes will be focused on books, and include a café as well as a curated assortment of nonbook items. While educational toys and games have done well for B&N, categories like music and DVDs (which have sold less well for the retailer) will be scaled back. Stores’ gift and stationery offerings will also be refreshed.

So, various thoughts: five stores won’t save you.

Do the smaller stores mean that their appeal has become more selective?

Omni-sales.  Geesh, guys, that’s happening for everyone in retail.  Making a virtue of necessity doesn’t make you special.

Easier to staff and run: so, firing a lot of your receiving managers was not a good idea?

Focused on books, but wait, there’s also non-book-items.  So they’re just cutting music and DVDs whose stores have been closing all over the nation.

Carry on, Barnes and Toys.  Looked at from a certain perspective, this stuff is hilarious, at least if you have the kind of humor that causes you to laugh at funerals.

 

57 Comments
  1. Big box book stores, that aren’t book stores. I wish them best with their future bankruptcy. Especially after their recent rounds of losses.

    March 2, 2018
  2. The five stores are just what they say: prototypes. B&N are trying them out. If they work well, they can go to this model. If not, they’re only out of five stores.

    Smaller stores mean less inventory. Ditching music and DVDs, which are hurting thanks to online downloads and streaming, helps. Note that Walmart still carries CDs and DVDs, Just saying.

    This doesn’t strike me as a twitching corpse. It does a football team down by three touchdowns in fourth quarter, trying to come up with a plays to let them win. But the clock is ticking, and soon it will become impossible to make three touchdowns and a field goal in the remaining time. Look for Flea Flicker plays and Hail Mary passes.

    March 2, 2018
  3. If their appeal has become more selective, perhaps they might stay open later, so more people can shop there in the evening. Then they can point proudly at the sign and proclaim “These go to eleven.” Or maybe they could do something really innovative, like selling books people are interested in buying. Or making it convenient to purchase what they don’t have in stock.

    March 2, 2018
    • Zsuzsa #

      To be fair, I doubt that B&N can ever do as well as Amazon at ordering for you what they don’t have. Their one advantage is that if you desperately need something, you can get it RIGHT NOW!!!! If you’re going to have to wait 3 days anyway, it’s probably easier to have the Amazon drones deliver it to you.

      As for your other suggestions, stores that “go to eleven” would be kind of cool, but I think that would require a sense of humor about themselves that I don’t think they have. And actually stocking and selling books that people want to buy? Don’t be ridiculous. Everyone knows that the only way to run a bookstore is to take only what the big publishers want you to take, and stocking the exact same number at every store in the country.

      March 2, 2018
      • I used to stop at a Tucson B & N on my way home from night class – unlike Borders, they were open until midnight.

        Egads. Thinking on it, that was ten years ago…

        March 2, 2018
        • I worked at a Borders, and that decision was very numbers-based, as in almost nothing sold after 10PM—plus you had a lot more unsavory occurrences happening between 10 and midnight.

          March 3, 2018
      • Draven #

        depends, lots of amazon books i can have in two days, or even one…

        March 3, 2018
  4. Here’s my question-how much is B&N a victim of the current publishing situation, where the Big Publishers put out books that nobody outside of New York and maybe SF and LA want to buy? Every time I’ve been to my local B&N, it’s “I already have all the books in that series” or “How is (insert author here) still being published?”

    Don’t even get me started on comic books and graphic novels.

    And, their gaming section is barely one shelf, all Pathfinder or D&D5th.

    (This does not excuse B&N’s own ability to utterly screw up themselves.)

    March 2, 2018
    • That may well be a factor, but I discovered a small bookstore in Georgia that’s on it’s way to becoming a chain. All they sell are books, both new and used. They’ll even buy books back.

      When I first heard of them, I thought “Why would someone want to buy and sell back a book when they can check it out of the library?” But they must be doing well, as they have more than one store now,

      March 2, 2018
      • That’s easy, you sell what you can get your hands on to buy what you want to read. I miss Annie’s book swap. What’s the name of this prechain?

        March 2, 2018
        • I had to look them up. I only saw them in advertisements when in that neck of the woods. It turns out they’re called Walls of Books, and they’re much bigger than I thought. Ten stores in Georgia; one in South Carolina; two in Ohio; one in Kansas; one in Louisiana; and one in Washington, DC.

          March 2, 2018
          • Draven #

            sad that a bookstore’s revolutionary idea is… being a bookstore.

            March 3, 2018
  5. They’re looking at becoming Coles Bookstore again. Single unit mall store, basically a Starbucks with books in the back.

    It will probably work better than the quad-unit they use now, less than half the rent. Smaller store means fewer employees to stock it. Science Fiction will be a single spinner rack plus a shelf buried in the back, to make room for the Star Wars movie merch.

    Yeah, that’s sure to work. Uh huh.

    March 2, 2018
    • If they went back to being a narrow little mallstore like Waldenbooks used to be, that would be an improvement. But they won’t.

      March 2, 2018
      • One of the last times I really loved being in a “big” bookstore was the little Waldenbooks back in 2000 or so. They carried stuff I hadn’t found anywhere else, and I found a quite enjoyable start to a dark fantasy series there that I certainly hadn’t seen in B&N…

        March 2, 2018
        • Yeah… I remember saving up cans to be able to buy my Elfquest books. I got books 1-8, in color, there. They had lots of stuff.

          March 2, 2018
          • Did you see that the Pinis are wrapping up all of the plot lines now? ElfQuest is ending—but on the creators’ terms, after 40 years.

            March 3, 2018
            • John R. Ellis #

              Some of their “wrapping up” of plot lines is a bit weird. “Oh, man, of ‘course’ all this time Cutter was actually just the male energy of Timmain! It -totally- fits. Because of something Rayek said once, in reference to something completely different. Don’t you get it?” Ummmm….oooooh-kay…

              March 3, 2018
            • Yeah. Dark Horse picked them up for publication, which is good, I think.

              March 3, 2018
  6. Brett Baker #

    Did Amazon plant the management team of B&N? It seems like that makes more sense than they’re that incompetent.

    March 2, 2018
  7. C4c

    March 2, 2018
  8. Mike Houst #

    Reminds me of the Sears decline and soon to be extinction. Which is weird since they really got their growth when they did catalog sales across the plains of rural America. One would logically think that transitioning to an on-line catalog sales system would have been easy, and the smart move for them. Failure to adapt.

    March 2, 2018
    • You said Sears, and that reminded me of Hostess. The ubiquitous Twinky makers went out of business a few years ago, because of a broken distribution model and outdated bakeries. Some guy bought it, built a new automated bakery, changed the distribution, worked on the Twinkies a bit, and doubled his money in two years. Doubled. His. Money. Same product.

      Hostess could have done that, right? No, they couldn’t. Because those guys literally couldn’t even -think- of it. They actively resisted every attempt to change their distribution and their bakeries. The guy with the automated ovens tried as hard as he could to sell them one, and they told him to step off.

      People are not infinitely adaptable. Many of them will not adapt at all. They’ll fight to keep everything the same, even when they know its not working and the company is going under.

      So, there probably is a successful book store model out there, waiting to take the industry forward, happily perking away. But the B&N weenies are not the ones who are going to find it. They are going to ride their model down in flames, roll hard Left and bail out.

      March 2, 2018
      • Hostess’s contracts with the Teamsters and other unions did not help matters. The closing and re-creation cleared those out of the way.

        March 2, 2018
        • Mike Houst #

          You can’t improve it. Any changes you make will always be detrimental. The only way to make things better is to completely destroy the company and replace it with a better one.

          Jesus, Joseph, and Mary! Doesn’t that sound like the U.S. today?

          March 2, 2018
        • This. Hostess was saddled with debt, and couldn’t afford to innovate. In football terms, they were a touchdown behind, with two seconds left in the fourth quarter, and the other team had just received the football.

          The ones who bought Hostess didn’t have the debt and could innovate. Turns out that Twinkies ™ don’t last forever, and limited shelf life made modernized lower cost distribution difficult to impossible. The new owners invested in changing the Twinkies ™ formula to lengthen shelf life, which made modernized distribution affordable. The old owners couldn’t because of their debt.

          March 2, 2018
      • Since I seem to be in that minority of people who actually *like* Twinkies, I was actually very sad to hear that they closed, then very happy to hear that they reopened.

        And yes, happy to hear that the fella who took a chance doubled his investment at the least.

        March 2, 2018
        • Love Twinkies. Probably early conditioning – they were my kindergarten snack. (Yes, I DID turn 58 last week. Sigh….)

          March 2, 2018
          • Heh, what’s my excuse then? I got them a couple of times as a kid while I was in LA, and well, simply liked how they tasted. We have variations of the things back in the Philippines; I kinda wanna make my own sometimes, but that seems to defeat the purpose of cheap, no effort snack.

            March 2, 2018
        • TRX #

          Same name, not the same product. Not even as similar a cheap imitator. Though most people apparently can’t tell the difference.

          March 3, 2018
        • My dad was VERY unhappy when they went out of business. He had been having trouble getting his Twinkies from the local grocery, and in the last few years before he died, those were a major part of his daily caloric intake (not because he ate a ton of them, but because he hardly at anything at all). He was pretty happy when they came back.

          March 3, 2018
      • sam57l0 #

        Phantom, the owners/top management will bail out, but the employees will die in the crash, having no parachutes.

        March 2, 2018
        • “…but the employees will die in the crash, having no parachutes.”

          Who cares about them? This is BUSINESS, maximizing profit to the exclusion of all else. Employees are replaceable cogs in a disposable machine, Sam.

          But let us not forget, as TXRed noted above, the employees were instrumental in killing the thing. They didn’t care about it either. Work at Hostess, work at McDonalds, all the same, right?

          To my mind, it takes a special kind of stupid to cut holes in your own boat in the middle of the ocean, when you don’t have a life raft.

          That’s why I’m self employed. I can’t stand stupid, and it is all you find in large companies. Stupid greedy management, stupid greedy employees, stupid greedy customers, with the predictable result of bankruptcy all ’round.

          Then some clever bastard comes along and doubles his investment selling exactly the same product, proving beyond any shadow of doubt that it was stupidity that killed it in the first place.

          In a sane world, every member of those unions that participated in killing Hostess and losing their jobs should be up in the union management’s face, demanding an explanation for killing the golden goose. But here, in Bizzaro World, nobody -ever- seems to make that connection. They expend their bile on the new guy that doubled his money. He’s the evil one.

          March 3, 2018
          • Draven #

            in the case of B&N? naah, if they were trying to maximize profits they would be selling as many books as possible. Hostess? yeah their highly paid unionized employees cared, but they were largely the ones opposing any new automation because it meant that they would lose jobs.

            You can maximize profits without ‘inevitable bankruptcy’. See Amazon.

            Greed can be just fine.

            March 3, 2018
          • TRX #

            The realization I made during my time as a corporate sarariman was that the wonder wasn’t that companies failed, it was that they managed to keep on so long before they closed their doors.

            March 3, 2018
      • snelson134 #

        “Hostess could have done that, right? No, they couldn’t. Because those guys literally couldn’t even -think- of it.”

        There were also union contracts involved. Basically, they couldn’t keep going under those contracts, and the only way to break them was to go out of business. Unions are a plague.

        March 3, 2018
    • Always wondered about that – how Sears just missed being an internet vendor to rival Amazon. One of the other regulars at Chicagoboyz used to work at their HQ when he was a young man. Their inventory practices were … FUBARed on an epic basis, according to him. The long-time warehouse employees basically carried it all in their heads.

      March 2, 2018
      • Draven #

        Doesn’t surprise me, the number of items i have wandered around with a salesperson looking for something their computer insisted was in the store, but no one could find.

        March 3, 2018
      • My husband works in logistics for a very large company that has had its major growth in this century. (Most of you can figure this out.) Shortly after he got his job with the corporate side (after working warehouse on the retail side), he figured out that the process on the corporate end wasn’t scalable. So he figured out how to fix it, and after several years of pushing the concept (and several managers), they worked with him to implement it. Nothing big, really, just a means of managing trouble tickets, but he saw the problem coming far enough ahead that he was able to push it once the higher-ups realized there was a problem.

        They aren’t using that particular system anymore, since it’s been some years, but his department is down to three people now. (Which is actually a problem, since internal major health issues (other folk) and people covering other stuff means he’s been working by himself quite a bit in the last month. Oops.)

        March 3, 2018
    • Correct me if I am wrong. Just as the whole internet craze was getting started, Sears had decided that the whole catalog ordering thing was a thing of the past and started heavily investing in brick and mortar big stores. Small town I lived in had a catalog pickup location for Sears, and ordering as well. Closed around the turn of the 21st century or sooner. So, as the new retailers were going online the old retailers were shutting down the very thing that would have let them eat the newbies lunch.

      March 2, 2018
      • That’s my recollection as well – Sears was ditching catalog sales when the internet craze was starting, and didn’t change course until after the online retailers had gained traction.

        March 2, 2018
      • The problem with Sears was that either in the 1960s or early 1970s it decided to go for the upper middle class market. This was right at the time the discount stores started making a splash. I’ve told of the suit of armor in a Sear’s Christmas “Wish Book,” but not that we got the bulk of our everyday clothes through mail order. When the discount stores arrived, they were priced cheaper than Sears, and guess where we started buying clothes.

        IIRC, Sears took a hit during the 1970s recession, and there was a hit in quality. They invested not only in department stores, but ordering centers. The latter was handy for big items. Remember one around 1970 and not before, but that doesn’t mean anything.

        Sears had quite an array of specialty catalogs, from hunting to tools. IIRC, they started paring that back prior to the rise of the Internet. By then the store was already in trouble, and they knew it. But, with the discount stores filling a crucial sales niche, they were unable to regain lost ground.

        That’s why they bought KMart when it got into trouble. KMart was supposed to give them a foothold in the lower middle class market. The problem was their prices were higher than Walmart. Sears tried to get into online sales, as did a number of companies, but they still had price issues. Did order some hard-to-find-locally items from them, and the process was no more convoluted than ordering from Amazon or Walmart.

        It’s pricing that I think killed Sears. As a rule of thumb, if people can get something elsewhere cheaper, they will. It says a great deal that when the closest KMarts closed, it took going-out-of-business discounts to put them on par with Walmart – and they didn’t have them on all items.

        March 2, 2018
        • RCPete #

          Note: KMart actually bought Sears after K emerged from bankruptcy.

          March 2, 2018
      • RCPete #

        For some small cities, Sears does a franchise operation. I’m not fond of it, especially after they stuck the church with what they had, rather than admitting the desired one could be ordered.

        J.C.Penney had a big mall store in the local city before we moved in, but had shifted to a catalog operation. A couple years later, they moved the catalog outlet to a smaller store, before closing it entirely. They might still be operating west of the Cascades; not sure. Haven’t been in that mall in ages.

        March 2, 2018
        • J.C. Penney is still around, for which I am grateful, since their Tall online selection includes a house brand with real fabric for the T-shirts, not the tissue that everybody seems to think women will put up with.

          Mind you, even they don’t carry Tall clothes for women in the stores. Because of course we have so many options out there.

          March 3, 2018
    • Luke #

      Remember that with respect to Sears, the ambitious strivers that had taken over the company looked at those who had run the mail order system as relics of another age. The institutional knowledge still existed, but was actively being purged.
      Sears could have dominated internet sales, but not with the administration it had.

      March 2, 2018
      • sam57l0 #

        The new guys KNEW they were smarter than the old guys…

        March 2, 2018
      • RCPete #

        For what it’s worth, it looks like Sears dropped the main catalog in 1993, and after KMart bought them in ’04, they brought back some catalogs in the mid ’00s. There’s a certain amount of irony that a discount store chain known for dingy stores and crappy service thought it could make a success buying a big retailer known for dingy stores and crappy service. IMHO, of course. 🙂

        According to the Wikis, Sears Canada was sold off from Sears Holdings, and is a major e-commerce player up there. Sounds like they had some agility.

        KMart closed the local city store several years ago. The building was taken over by a regional farm & ranch store chain, and has considerably more customers than I ever saw at the KMart.

        March 3, 2018
        • I think that wiki is out of date. Sears Canada filed for bankruptcy last year and there was a major blowup when bargain shoppers found out that some “discounted” items had been marked up….

          March 3, 2018
          • RCPete #

            Not surprised on out-of-date. I like Infogalactic for a lot of stuff, but they don’t have the resources to keep everything up to date. (The gatekeepers and reversion wars for things like global warming articles soured me on wikipedia.)

            March 3, 2018
        • Draven #

          apparently all the local k-marts were closed while i was in CA. One of them is empty and is used as a rental venue and is where gun shows are held most often

          March 3, 2018
  9. I’ve been trying to think of why the regional B&N seems to be thriving. 1) lack of competition, 2) homeschool families can get the education discount and they buy LOTS of books-n-stuff, 3) decent book selection with a large number of regional titles, 4) good science and tech sections, 5) lack of competition. I’m not certain how long they will last, but someone’s doing something right, given the number of people I see buying books as well as coffee and junque there.

    March 2, 2018
    • They have education books and a decent book selection, and good science and tech sections? That’ll help, IMO.

      March 2, 2018
    • Some of that can be explained by “ignoring Corporate.”

      March 3, 2018
  10. adventuresfantastic #

    C4c

    March 2, 2018
  11. How about what happens when you cut the head off a chicken and it just keeps flopping around? Brainless, right?

    March 2, 2018
    • sam57l0 #

      First they run around. Then they drop, and then they flop around. I recall my grandparents killjng a chicken for dinner.

      March 2, 2018

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