Borders files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Local and regional booksellers continue to consolidate stores or close their doors all together. For many, it’s already too late to change direction on a rudderless ship that has been left in the wake of the rapid decline in hard copy book sales. One national retailer, on the other hand, is using a change in strategy to help weather the storm.
It had been a few weeks since I’d last visited my local Barnes & Noble. As I walked through the front door over the weekend, the first thing I noticed was a fully staffed Nook station located no more than 10 feet inside the store–strategically placed so it would be almost impossible to miss. In addition to the fancy NOOK color, they also had an extensive assortment of NOOK accessories. Complementing the kiosk, their in-store displays and signage also do a good job of highlighting a mix of both their print and digital book offerings.
But eReaders are only one aspect of their strategic shift. Upon entering the store, the thing that I was most surprised by was the significant amount of retail space they are now dedicating to hobbies, games, and childhood learning which I’m guessing takes up approximately 350-500 square feet that was once populated by books. This new assortment diversifies their retail product offerings and also serves as an extension to the reading and play area for children already housed within many Barnes & Noble stores. Based on the prominently displayed LEGO products, it appears they are hoping to attract more kids which will equal more parents which will equal more retail spending–not to mention continuing to get kinds into their customer pipeline as early as possible.
Barnes & Noble has also benefited from having in-store Starbucks that not only attract potential Barnes & Noble customers into the store who otherwise might have gone elsewhere for a cup of joe, but also increase the likelihood that they’ll buy a magazine, book, or a fancy new NOOK. And although I’ve never felt the need to set up camp to study or hang out on a Thursday night, many others do and it doesn’t take many $4.00 mochas to help keep the lights on.
Are the NOOK, their new assortment of board games and childhood learning materials, and Starbucks coffee enough to keep Barnes & Noble afloat? Or will they join the ranks of other booksellers who weren’t able to adapt to the changes that are continuing to sweep their industry? So far, I’d have to say the changes make a lot of sense.