The company, currently in exclusive hands, is taking a web page from the elevation bookstores across the U.S. That continue to be undaunted by Amazon.

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When U.K. Bookseller James Daunt take it over together CEO of Barnes & Noble a year ago, ~ a sale that landed it in exclusive hands, he challenged the formidable difficulty of rescuing the chain indigenous troubles greatly of its own making, in the shadow of Amazon"s prowess in the segment.

At the moment of the sale, yearly revenue in ~ Barnes & Noble hadn"t grown for seven years, declining, in fact, by part $700 million since 2015. As Amazon powered on as a height bookseller, Barnes & Noble cycled v a series of CEOs and also strategies. 


The COVID-19 pandemic has interfered with lot of whatever Daunt"s arrangement may have actually been. A year ago, brand-new owner Elliott Advisors had actually said save closures weren"t likely. But in June, the firm closed an Upper east Side place in new York City, and laid off an unspecified number of employees in its that company office. 

In a current interview, Daunt, a bookseller in his very own right (he is the founder of Daunt Books, a small independent London chain, and managing director of Waterstones, an additional popular U.K. Bookstore chain own by Elliott) said that the disease outbreak has actually also listed some opportunity. Temporary closures have permitted the firm to revamp stores: Daunt envisions Barnes & Noble together a chain of smaller places — one reason for the new York closure is the it was too large, and also the firm says it"s "actively looking" for a smaller store in that neighborhood.

Even much more important 보다 size, however, is that each keep will be managed by world who love and know books, recognize their neighborhood markets and also view their role as essential to their community. It"s a strategy that has allowed local elevation bookstores come survive against Amazon because that years, a remarkable achievement considering the they sell items the are an overwhelming if not difficult to differentiate.

Daunt acknowledges that, for this reason far, Barnes & Noble has failed in that regard. "Barnes & Noble to be an extraordinary and also exciting bookseller," he said. "That"s every positive and also good, but I likewise think, together Amazon has stripped away industry share, part decisions to be made the were short term and also maybe even short-sighted, and that"s been reflected in a steady decline in sales." 

The upside of closing in a pandemic

The short-lived closure the nonessential businesses during the pandemic has actually panicked countless a retailer, yet Daunt"s team has actually seized it as an chance to review stores. He describes a procedure of tearing up the old playbook, indigenous how books are categorized come where and also how shelves space placed. Year of siloed book-buying and corporate-level planning meant some the should have actually been shelved with each other were scattered in miscellaneous sections, making for an awkward circulation — manga stuck behind history, because that example. Over all, Daunt wants to create spaces where human being can linger and also discover, possibly for hours.


All books have come under from their shelves, in a process of undoing what had been central prescriptions from brand-new York around organization and also layout the ignored the idiosyncrasies of each physical store, while keeping the benefits of this firm resources. The Barnes & Noble employees are asked to treat their locations as despite they owned them themselves.

"One that the things that I"ve done at Waterstones is loosen every one of those strictures ~ above the bookselling teams and give lock their very own autotomy, and give castle the strength of the home office in support, therefore they"re maybe to do their very own thing and also do it more efficiently and better," he said. "It transforms a chain bookseller native a rather large and personal one to suddenly a vibrant and quite exciting one. This obviously comes from my very own background as an live independence bookseller."

Is Amazon also a bookseller? 

Daunt"s strategy to offering derives from his insistence that, for every its strengths, Amazon is simply a "seller that books," miscellaneous well short of the mark.

"I only have ever before been a bookseller," he said. "Retailers space specialists — the successful ones have tendency to be. Amazon is no a bookseller, it"s a seller that books and there"s a difference between the two. If you know what you want, of food it"s exponentially easy to acquire a book from Amazon. Yet that isn"t what a bookstore does. The 2 of us, libraries and bookstores, you are fully able to go at your own pace to uncover books, and also the serendipity of that exploration is a very different experience. That comes naturally to live independence bookstores and also that"s why the civilization who space there room of main and overriding importance."

Daunt is well mindful that Amazon is a competitor. After all, the e-retailer 25 years ago launched v the category and also remains a bookselling giant, in some months responsible for half the sales of brand-new books in the U.S., follow to book audience research firm Codex. Amazon itself, though, hasn"t reported its publication sales — print, e-book or self-published — in some time, and also didn"t respond to repeated requests for more information ~ above those results. Some two-thirds of publication sales room through e-commerce, and Amazon has actually the "lion"s share" the the e-book market and of the online publish market, according to Codex.


But Daunt to trust that, in spite of its recent decline, Barnes & Noble maintains a special ar in readers" hearts, and that if the chain can live approximately such expectations, that will ideal Amazon in crucial ways.


"The irony is that we"re much, much more difficult for Amazon to contend with 보다 Amazon is for us because you can"t, with an algorithm and also a website, technician the loyalty that us can."


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While Barnes & Noble must contend online, for example, that needn"t necessarily complete with Amazon element or its one- come two-day fulfillment. Less focus on superspeed, and much more on certainty, support the to trust the individual managers develop through their stores, follow to Daunt.

"For most of us 3 days is simply fine, if the three days is reliable. If the three days is periodically three days and also sometimes a week, booksellers have in general allowed that kind of chaos," that said. "I personally think the irony is the we"re much, much more complicated for Amazon to compete with 보다 Amazon is because that us since you can"t, with an algorithm and a website, engineer the loyalty that us can. Because our skills and our endure are completely unbeatable."

If Barnes & Noble could put increase a strong an obstacle against Amazon in the market, it would certainly be good for the publications business, according to Peter Hildick-Smith, Codex team founder and president. "Hopefully Daunt will get it to job-related out," Hildick-Smith said. "Certainly the store-manager design makes sense conceptually. It"s really necessary for the market to preserve some type of balance — otherwise it"s Amazon in totality."

What about Nook?

Daunt is unequivocal about his appreciation for how physical space, arranged, appointed and managed well, develops the sort of atmosphere that lends chin to book browsing — and also buying.

You would think, then, that Barnes & Noble"s Nook e-reader would certainly be destined to continue to languish top top Daunt"s watch. Indeed, Waterstone"s, under Daunt"s direction, provided up the e-book business in 2016, tying up v Rakuten"s Kobo communication instead.

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But Daunt sounds prepared to provide Nook the attention it has actually desperately needed, together Amazon"s Kindle has run away v the space. 

"I certain love Nook, and also I think my predecessors had fallen out of love through it," the said. "It"s under-promoted come our customers, it came to be the sort of wayward boy that had come to be embarrassing. Yet if you want to review digitally, the application is fantastic. I"m a champion that digital books and digital book retailing, but over and past that I"m a champion the reading. There are numerous reasons why people want to review digitally, yet Nook needs to be much far better supported in ~ the Barnes & Noble ecosystem."

The Barnes & Noble ecosystem

Barnes & Noble will incorporate some food concessions and adjacent merchandising like stationary, gifts and games the Daunt says have the right to enhance a bookstore"s offering, listed it"s excellent "with taste and also discernment."

"Cafes and things can make bookstores a location of community," that said. "Bookstores are places that human being enjoy meeting and also discussing points — teenagers after ~ they"ve come out of school, college students. Bookstores room somewhere you have to feel comfortable, unthreatened, in ~ ease. And also it must be done to reflect the community you"re within."

Daunt is a fan not only of the 3 chains he"s personally tied to, but additionally other bookstores, like Books and Books in Miami and The Strand and McNally Jackson in new York, to name simply a few.

"The independents are simply really, really great in the joined States, and that"s where my heart lies," he said. "When you"re trying to curate a reasonably small space you have produced something really magical. There"s no one mystery there. Every of them has their own secret sauce. Ns just need to come up through that for hundreds of stores."