A Retrofit for America’s Dying Malls

15 December 2017

This is not quite the thing that PG usually excerpts. However, after his megapost yesterday, he’ll make an exception.

From The Wall Street Journal:

After Hickory Hollow Mall in Antioch, Tenn., closed in 2011, it became the home of a new satellite campus of Nashville State Community College and a practice rink for Nashville’s professional hockey team. It still has stores, including an ethnic market filled with small immigrant businesses, but on a much smaller scale than before.

In East Austin, Texas, the abandoned Highland Mall was taken over in recent years by Austin Community College, which opened a state-of-the-art lab for teaching math on the second floor of the old J.C. Penney and is building housing for students and others on the old parking lots. With a new light rail stop, the development has also become a magnet for local employers.

As the Christmas shopping season reminds us, the traditional retail sector is undergoing profound change. While Amazon and its e-commerce rivals vie for ever-larger shares of the market, retailers such as RadioShack, The Limited, Payless and Toys ‘R’ Us have gone bankrupt.

. . . .

The so-called “retail apocalypse” is hardly universal. Overall, the sector is still growing at a healthy rate of 3% a year. But the shift in retail has been especially hard on many suburbs and rural areas. Dying malls and shopping centers have meant job losses and a shrinking tax base.

. . . .

When the Villa Italia Mall in Lakewood, Colo., closed and defaulted to the city in 2001, the local government worked with a developer to raze most of the buildings, cut new roads and create a lively hub neighborhood of homes, offices and arts centers, with some new stores too. Belmar, as it is now called, is already generating four times the tax revenue that the old mall did. Eight of the 13 malls in the Denver metropolitan area are being similarly retrofitted and remade.

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

I didn’t go to bookshops

14 December 2017

I didn’t go to bookshops to buy. That’s a little bourgeois. I went because they were civilized places. It made me happy there were people who sat down and wrote and wrote and wrote and there were other people who devoted their lives to making those words into books. It was lovely. Like standing in the middle of civilization.

Jerry Pinto

America’s malls are rotting away

12 December 2017

From CNN:

As Macy’s, JCPenney, Sears and other major department stores close their doors, the malls that housed those stores are facing a serious crisis.

That’s because when so-called anchor tenants leave a mall, it opens the door for other stores to break their leases or negotiate much cheaper rent.

As one big store closes, it can take several smaller stores along with it like a house of cards. Experts predict that a quarter of American malls will close in five years — around 300 out of 1,100 that currently exist.

. . . .

Retailers often sign co-tenancy agreements in their leases with malls, allowing them to reduce their rent or get out of a lease if a big store closes.

That’s because the smaller retailers next to anchor stores no longer benefit from the foot traffic that the major retailers received, according to Garrick Brown, vice president of retail research for Cushman & Wakefield.

. . . .

Many former anchor tenants are closing hundreds of stores as Amazon eats their lunch.

Sears, which had operated nearly 3,800 stores as recently as a decade ago is now down to 1,104 stores. Macy’s closed 68 stores this year, and JCPenney was set to shutter 128.

. . . .

Experts classify malls into “A” “B” “C” and “D” grades characterized in part by sales per square footage of the malls. “B” malls and below are going to have a particularly hard time with the financial burden of the changing mall landscape.

Link to the rest at CNN

Another Bay Area Barnes & Noble bites the dust

7 December 2017

From The Mercury News:

First, it was the Borders in Milpitas on Ginny Cox’s way home. Now her neighborhood Barnes & Noble is going out of business in San Jose’s Eastridge Mall.

What’s a local bibliophile like Cox to do?

“I’m devastated — books are my passion,’’ Cox said, standing beside a table piled with new titles, including former Vice President Joe Biden’s “The Book of Joe,’’ which is on her list.

“This is so convenient for me — it’s less than five miles from my house,’’ she explained sadly, as if watching a dream die.

The 27,700 square-foot Barnes & Noble store is closing its doors Jan. 11 after a going-out-of-business clearance sale that coincides with the holidays. It’s the latest casualty of the brick-and-mortar book store chain, joining Barnes & Nobles in Pleasant Hill, West San Jose and Fremont, among other Bay Area cities, in recent years. Ironically, a online petition is now circulating to save the East San Jose behemoth bookseller.

Link to the rest at The Mercury News

For the benefit of TPV visitors who are not familiar with East Bay/Silicon Valley suburbs of San Francisco, the locations where Barnes & Noble has closed/is closing are full of people with the financial resources to buy books and the demographic predilection to be avid readers.

Here’s what Zillow says about home prices in San Jose:

The median home value in San Jose is $934,000. San Jose home values have gone up 11.3% over the past year.

And Fremont:

The median home value in Fremont is $967,100. Fremont home values have gone up 6.4% over the past year.

No Takeover for Barnes & Noble

7 December 2017


UPDATE: PG apologizes for the autoplay, but is informed that the transition of many web videos from from plugins like Adobe Flash (that Chrome and other browsers could stop) to HTML5 has changed the game a bit.

The video is not autoplaying on PG’s Chrome browser, but he has a zillion different extensions and isn’t certain which one (or which combination of more than one) is doing the job. Searching for “disable autoplay” on Google might help out.

B&N Maintains Dividend; Riggio Buys a Million Shares

7 December 2017

From Shelf Awareness:

Barnes & Noble has declared another quarterly dividend of 15 cents a share, maintaining its annual dividend rate of 60 cents a share at a time when some observers had speculated that the company might have to lower or suspend the dividend because of declining revenues.

. . . .

[F]ounder and chairman Len Riggio bought a million shares of company stock last Friday at $6.8027 a share.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

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.

When I Was a Girl I Wrapped Books

1 December 2017

From The Millions:

When I was in high school I worked as a Christmas gift wrapper at the Chinook Bookshop in Colorado Springs. I can remember everything about the job except how I got it. I don’t remember an interview or even an application. All I remember is that every girl—and it was only girls—who wrapped books at the Chinook simply knew she was the sort of girl who wrapped books at the Chinook, and I was one of those girls. So on a weekday afternoon in early November of my junior year, I walked from William J. Palmer High School across Acacia Park to the Chinook, opened its heavy wooden door, and presented myself in the way that, just a few miles away at the Broadmoor hotel, a different sort of girl of the same age in the same season would present herself as a debutante in a white dress and a jeweled tiara. (At the Chinook I presented myself in a messy ponytail and button-fly Levis and a down jacket.)

The gift wrappers at the Chinook were North End girls, the North End being the old downtown section of a newly sprawling western city, a downtown of treed boulevards and clapboard houses so separate from the city swelling around it that only in college did I learn that the rest of the country saw Colorado Springs as something of a joke: militarized, fundamentalist, ignorant.

. . . .

I was there nearly every Saturday, buying a Tony Hillerman mystery for my mom’s birthday or a hardback copy of The Bean Trees with my saved babysitting wages. And when I didn’t have enough to buy a new book, which was the case more often than not, I sat on one of the kick stools meant for shelving books and read one straight through, sucking on sugar cubes I’d pinched from the bowl next to the free coffee in the back of the store. I thought no one noticed me, but of course they did. They noticed and they made an allowance, and because they did the store became my church.

And when I was 16 and they hired me to be a gift wrapper, the store became my heaven. In the weeks before Christmas the Chinook was loud and warm and full. Toddlers threw stuffed monkeys from the two-story playhouse in the children’s book section; men in hiking boots and dirty ski jackets bent over topographical maps they’d pulled from tall oak chests containing all the landscapes of the West: every vein, every slope, from the prairie to the Pacific.  Shoppers balanced tall stacks of books in their arms, left stacks of books on the wide black counter while they went back for more.

. . .

When a customer wanted her books wrapped, a bookseller—at the Chinook they were booksellers, never sales clerks—would call out for one of us. “Wrap, please!” he’d say, turning from the counter to the cluttered warren where we worked, a narrow space behind the sales counter that was as dark and cramped as a ship’s kitchen. One of us would pop out and stand smiling at his side, ready to receive. We were taught to study the customer quickly and carefully, and to identify three physical characteristics that would distinguish her from the multitudes. We weren’t given the customers’ names, or even a copy of their sales slips. Only their books, which we were to return to them, wrapped, in as little time as possible. When the sales transaction was complete we scooped the books off the counter and took them back to our narrow worktop where we wrapped shoulder-to-shoulder, sharing two tape dispensers and four commercial-size rolls of wrapping paper mounted just above our heads.

When we emerged with the wrapped books and approached the waiting customer we weren’t allowed to ask, “Are these your books?” We were to say, “Here are your books. Merry Christmas.” We were to surprise them with our speed and confidence and our knowing. That was our job.

Link to the rest at The Millions

Amid Takeover Talk, Barnes & Noble Posts $30 Million Q2 Loss, Stock Sheds 10%

30 November 2017

From Forbes:

After eyeing a retail transformation through broadened product assortments and an in-store café (and restaurant) push, Barnes & Noble says it’s back to books following a disappointing quarter.

. . . .

“Book sales continued to strengthen, and we saw improved traffic and conversion trends. As a result of the improving trends, we will continue to place a greater emphasis on books, while further narrowing our non-book assortment,” said CEO Demos Parneros, who assumed his position in April after predecessor Ron Boire’s eight-month stint in charge.

. . . .

Barnes & Noble’s Nook brand of e-readers, billed as its digital business, brought in about $26 million in revenue for the quarter, a decline of more than 25% from last year. The retail segment saw sales dip about 7% to $770 million. The firm has been offsetting shrinking sales with cost-cutting attempts and said Tuesday it plans to reduce costs by $40 million for the full fiscal year.

The ailing bookseller is perhaps a prime example of the retail industry’s struggle to modernize itself in an age of consumerism increasingly dominated by ecommerce and helmed by Amazon.

Link to the rest at Forbes

Barnes & Noble losses: Blame it on Harry Potter

30 November 2017

From CNN:

The bookstore chain said sales fell 8% and losses soared. The reason: There was no new Harry Potter installment this year. “Harry Potter and The Cursed Child” hit stores during the same period last year.

The company said it expects sales will be flat over the final six months of its current fiscal year. But that forecast did little to assure investors, as the stock fell 10% in early trading following the report, leaving shares down 37% so far this year.

. . . .

[T]he company has been reporting more annual losses than profits in recent years, and has lost a total of $345 million since early 2010.

Link to the rest at CNN

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