Barnes & Noble (NYSE:
), the nation's largest brick-and-mortar bookseller, is not
having the best quarter. The company does not want to shut down
its retail business but it might not have a choice. In its
second-quarter earnings release
, the bookseller announced that retail revenue had decreased
three percent "due to flat comparable store sales, store closures
and lower BN.com sales." Meanwhile, the company's Nook business
continued to grow with sales rising 38 percent.
As long as the retail outlets are
, Barnes & Noble will not have to close them. But if the
declines continue, it might be forced to let go of that part of
There are, however, a few things the company could do with its
Turn Them Into Mini-Warehouses
) and Barnes & Noble think that the future of books is in
digital distribution. Right or wrong, there is still a lot of
money to be made selling hardcover and paperback copies of new
books. But that doesn't mean Barnes & Noble has to employ a
full staff at retail outlets that stay open seven days a
Rather, the company could transform its stores into warehouses
that ship and sell books to nearby customers, as well as those
who wish to walk in and buy books in-store. Most of the store
could be blocked off and used for storage. Up at the front
consumers would see the familiar checkout counter, as well as a
Nook kiosk. Barnes & Noble could allow users to browse the
store's selection through one of the Nooks. For books that are
not available in Nook form, consumers could use another kiosk --
a Windows PC, perhaps -- that would feature excerpts from the
store's entire collection.
This would not provide Barnes & Noble with a long-term
solution. But it could reduce overhead (if the stores were mostly
used as warehouses, the company would not need as many retail
employees) and keep the retail outlets running a little
It could also run the company into the ground if its loyal
customers hate the new format, so it would be best to test it out
before going nationwide.
Sell Them to Amazon
If Best Buy (NYSE:
) closes it doors in a few years, Amazon is going to need a
showroom to sell its products. It cannot rely on Target (NYSE:
) or Wal-Mart (NYSE:
) to pull this off -- their stores do not carry enough
electronics. They also lack the visual appeal of Best Buy.
In that sense, Amazon could simply acquire Best Buy. But
Barnes & Noble's outlets would be a much cheaper (and less
Turn Them Into Halloween Costume Outlets
In 2011, consumers watched in horror as one Metro Detroit mall
transformed a closed GameWorks arcade into a temporary store for
cheaply made Halloween costumes. This is a common scene all over
America; failed businesses sell their retail space to companies
that specialize in selling Halloween items.
If Barnes & Noble runs out of options, the retailer could
replace its bookshelves with broomsticks, pumpkins, toxic makeup
and other ghoulish delights.
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