Home » Bookstores, Pricing » Barnes & Noble Stores are (Finally) Price-Matching Their Website

Barnes & Noble Stores are (Finally) Price-Matching Their Website

6 December 2017

From The Digital Reader

For the longest time now B&N has been annoying their few remaining loyal customers by charging a higher price in store than on their website. This negated most of the value in buying a book in a bookstore (hence the ever declining same-store sales ).

B&N has not removed that policy, but they have revised it. A source told me, and I have confirmed with the B&N store in Manassas, that starting today B&N is matching the prices on its website for purchases made in store.

This is not an advertised sale, so there won’t be any signs or emails. But I was told that it is only available to B&N club members when they request it, and that this special will only run through the tenth of December.

Link to the rest at The Digital Reader

PG says this reflects very poorly on the marketing and customer relations savvy of Barnes & Noble management.

Case One: A customer comes into a Barnes & Noble store, browses for 20-30 minutes, then buys a book. Later, a friend tells the customer that Barnes & Noble is selling the same book online at a discount.

Case Two: A customer comes into a Barnes & Noble store, browses for 20-30 minutes, then someone else comes over to the same book section and the two briefly discuss a book. The second customer pulls out a smartphone and consults it for a couple of minutes. “I think Amazon is harming bookstores and other local retailers,” the second customer says, “but I can get this book online from Barnes & Noble for a lower price and I’m still supporting real bookstores.”

Case Three: A customer comes into a Barnes & Noble store, browses for 20-30 minutes, then another browser comes in and the two talk about one of their favorite authors who has just released a new book. The second customer pulls out the smartphone, consults it, then informs the first that Amazon has a better price, so the second customer is going to buy the new book and an earlier book by the same author and spend the same amount of money Barnes & Noble is charging for the new book alone.

PG suggests that all three of these scenarios (and many others) make the first customer feel like a sucker for paying in-store prices for a book at Barnes & Noble. Barnes & Noble is financially punishing her/him for not checking the price of a book online before purchasing it in the shop.

It seems a little sneaky, like Barnes & Noble is trying to exploit its less-knowledgeable customers. The store is selling the same product for two different prices without giving the in-store customer any extra value for coming to the store to make the purchase.

Instead of encouraging customers to come into the store, Barnes & Noble is encouraging at least some of them to go online, where Amazon and its prices are only a click away.

In PG’s ostentatiously humble opinion, these people don’t understand how to run a bookstore in 2017.

Bookstores, Pricing

18 Comments to “Barnes & Noble Stores are (Finally) Price-Matching Their Website”

  1. Hey, at least they aren’t charging online ‘more’ like walmart was said to be doing! 😉

    Now if only their website was worth visiting …

  2. “[T]hese people don’t understand how to run a bookstore in 2017″…… or any other time. Wow.

    • I don’t think anyone knows how to produce paper books or run a B&M bookstore in 2017. The ways that worked well prior to 2010 are well known, but their time has passed.

      Until just recently, they enjoyed 100% of the market share. Now paper is losing market share to eBooks, and B&M outlets are losing paper market share to online.

      Managing declining market share is very different from managing an increasing market share or a 100% market share with increasing annual sales.

      Players are trying to figure it out. Some will prosper, but those will the the ones that survive the great culling as market share moves away. When we look at them, it will be interesting to study how they did it.

  3. I loved Barnes and Nobel. I’d go there every week or two… browse the books and buy trade craft magazines. It was peaceful and relaxing and I discovered many new books and authors. That was 20 years ago. Today, magazines are dead in the craft world because the information is online or freely shared in trade forums. I no longer discover authors because I’ve learned to follow them, their books and their related books online. I’ve also discovered the value and fun of self published authors which B&N seldom shelves. Lastly, I’ve switched media to ebooks and audiobooks. Why drive to a bookstore to get something that I can instantly have on my device in minutes. The only reason to stop at B&N is to reminisce and a company can’t turn a profit with that as it’s business. I just don’t see a future for them. Sure there are people who shop there but I think that will fade as they move on.

  4. I was told that it is only available to B&N club members when they request it, and that this special will only run through the tenth of December.

    So you have to have the card, you have to know enough to request it, you have to hope that the salesperson knows about the deal, and it’s only good for…[checks calendar] four more days?

    Whoo Hoo!!!


  5. Too little, way too late, and petty – that ship has sailed. The deal’s going to make more people mad than happy.

  6. “. . . ostentatiously humble . . .”?

  7. Apropos of this, the local rag says another of their stores is leaving our area. We still have a couple, but I wouldn’t count on them lasting. Most of the comments under the article are along the lines of “I stopped going there.” A few aren’t.


    • Their lease was up and they couldn’t handle a new one. That’s all there is to it.

      • It sounds as though their long term business plan is to keep the stores only until their leases are up. Then they’re always declared too expensive, and the store closes. There is only one store left now in the NW Chicago ‘burbs and when it closes we will have only Half Price Books, in lieu of the half-dozen or so chain bookstores we had ten years ago.

        I don’t foresee B&N lasting out the decade.

  8. I gave up on B&N the day I got an email from them offering a discount on an e-book that could only be redeemed if I physically took my device to the store and downloaded the book there!!!

  9. Did no-one at B&N understand the irony inherent this ‘deal’?… or did they do it to themselves intentionally?

  10. It is weird. They act like they want a group of loyal customers, but then keep treating them as if they were one-time customers.

  11. I’m thinking B&N is going at this all wrong.

    Instead of stores price matching online, online prices should reflect store prices. After all, their biggest priority is to drive traffic to their stores so they need to steer their loyal fans away from digital and online towards print at their stores. It’s the same as what their BPH…sponsors…are doing by steering their readers towards print with ebook agency pricing.

    After all, at this point B&N customers are those who philosophically refuse to deal with Amazon anyway. And, if B&N stores are community assets like the SF locals in the OP claim them it is only reasonable they chip in by supporting premium pricing. The Cathedrals of literature must be preserved!

    Ideally, B&N online would ask visitors to select their local store and only let them browse the titles stocked there. They could even replicate the Front Table dynamic by framing the listings with cover images of coop-supported new releases. That would bring extra money by ensuring those covers are visible during the entirety of the shopper’s visit. Added bonus: it would discourage online shopping and encourage more short Five Mile trips through urban traffic to the wonderful community book culture hubs.

    Really, instead of trying to be more like Amazon, B&N needs to adopt more BPH strategies. B&M print uber alles!!

    • I’ve read it twice, and I think I detect a faint note of… sarcasm. Yes?

      • Noooo! Really? 😉

        All things considered, it could hardly make things worse and, who knows, it might help the cash flow. Maybe the faithful are faithful enough to pay full list. Stranger things have happened.

        To paraphrase Conan Doyle: “Once all rational moves have failed you might as well try the irrational.”

  12. You left out

    Case Four: A loyal Barnes and Noble customer with a membership card uses the website to find out if the local store has a book she really, really wants in stock. It does! She then uses the “Pick Up in Store” option to reserve the book, gives them the required hour to get it ready for her, and drives there only to discover that the book will cost her twice as much to buy in the store as the price quoted online. She then decides to leave the store and buy online. At Amazon.

    This actually happened to me a number of years ago. I naively thought the price would be the same as–or at least somewhere close to–the online price. Even when I raised the objection, the salesperson shrugged. Didn’t offer any kind of discount or accommodation at all.

  13. Lyle Blake Smythers

    Something not mentioned here, as far as I can tell, is the reason why the stores do not and cannot feasibly price match the online version.

    When I worked at B&N we were constantly having to explain this to irate customers: The in-store price is higher because of the overhead of paying rent for the physical store, the electricity bill, the salaries of the employees, and so forth. No one wanted to accept this as a legitimate factor.

    I’m not a business person so perhaps I am being naive in thinking,”Of *course* it’s cheaper online, because of reasons A, B, and C.”

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