It’s been one of the more puzzling aspects of Barnes & Noble‘s move into the future: Why are they giving up thousands of square feet of prime bookselling space — the area just inside of entrances, which have the highest sales-volume-per-square-inch of any area in the store by far — to displays of, well, one simple, not to mention small, product: the Nook. Here in New York, the Union Square B&N has turned at least 2,000 square feet in the front of the store into a barren-looking area with nothing to show but a few lonely Nooks and a handful of staffers standing around waiting to explain it to … someone. But it’s an area resolutely bereft of customers. They’re all off in other areas of the store, looking for the new books that used to be displayed so temptingly where you walked in. Meanwhile one can easily imagine those interested in reading on a device are shopping for that device … online.
So why is a company that has historically been so smart about the nexus between sales and in-store geography willing to lose so much money in the midst of an economic crisis?
For this observer, it’s been one of the signs that B&N is looking to get out of the bookselling business, or at least the brick-and-mortar end of it, as fast as possible.
I was thinking about Indigo/Chapters and realized that non book sales already make up tremendous amount of their floor space and sales. There is the Kobo Reader, Kobo Vox, toy sales, kitchen and housewares and even the messenger bag that Wendy gave me this year for our anniversary. So in the end, Barnes & Noble ends up looking more and more like Indigo, which according to their financial statements, looks like not a bad bet. The bookstore I would bet against in all of this is McNally Robinson which is a big box, family owned chain without a digital strategy or a way to get one. It could be a long road ahead for them.