Waterstones bookshop chain sold to Elliott Advisors

26 April 2018

From the BBC:

Book chain Waterstones has been bought by activist investment firm Elliott Advisors for an undisclosed amount.

James Daunt, the chain’s chief executive since 2011, will remain in the post under the new ownership, along with his key management team.

Mr Daunt said the sale should mean the chain could grow a lot faster.

Waterstones has 283 bookshops and 3,000 staff in the UK, Ireland, the Netherlands and Belgium, and sales of more than £400m a year.

Lynwood Investments, which has been the controlling shareholder in Waterstones since 2011, will keep a minority stake.

. . . .

Mr Daunt told the BBC that Elliott was buying Waterstones as an investment which would grow, not in order to force through change.

He said he expected Elliott to “see us grow and ultimately sell us for a nice profit – that’s what private equity people do”.

Link to the rest at BBC

Barnes & Noble, Amazon, Independents: Who’s Disrupting Whom?

19 April 2018

From Forbes blogs:

No doubt big-box stores in any industry are disrupters. Walmart, Sam’s Club, The Home Depot, Lowe’s, Costco and many others have disrupted the retail industry as we knew it. At one point, when Walmart stores would come into small towns, retail experts would conduct workshops for local competitors on how to stay in business alongside stores that focused on low prices and large selections.

The same thing happened in the book industry. Arthur Hinds & Company was founded in 1886 in New York City, and recent Harvard grad Gilbert Clifford Noble got a job there as a clerk. By 1894, Noble became a partner and the new store was called Hinds & Noble. In 1917, Noble bought out Hinds and formed a partnership with William Barnes, and the name of the business was changed to Barnes & Noble. At its peak in 2008, Barnes & Noble had 726 stores, as well as a chain of 674 college bookstores. In April 2017, a corporate report said the number of stores was at 632.

. . . .

But even with Amazon and Barnes & Noble gobbling up most of the market share, some independent bookstores have been able to survive, or even thrive, in the competitively-priced landscape of the industry by offering not only the latest books, but also hard-to-find older books, many of them used. Local authors play an important role in the success of independent bookstores. Now, some indie bookstores, such as Powell’s in Portland, Oregon, are as big, if not bigger, than some Barnes & Nobles, while others like Left Bank Books in St. Louis, Missouri, have a smaller footprint.

. . . .

[A] recent RetailWire article reported that Barnes & Noble, once an indie killer, is struggling to compete against some of the independent, Mom-and-Pop stores. I’m not sure that’s accurate.

. . . .

Was the recent shift to online retail in the book industry a surprise to Barnes & Noble? No, it figured out years ago that the retail landscape was changing. It recognized that its own Goliath was Amazon.

. . . .

While the headline in RetailWire said that Barnes & Noble was losing out to Mom-and-Pop retailers, I’m not sure I’m in agreement. Yes, the independents are doing well, but the entire retail book industry is evolving. The smaller stores that have survived and thrived are seeing the retail landscape favor them a bit.

Link to the rest at Forbes blogs and thanks to Dave for the tip.

Contra to the OP, PG suggests that Barnes & Noble did not understand that Amazon was a serious, even deadly, competitor until way, way too late to do anything about it.

BN’s online efforts were ridiculously bad, but it was a serious error in judgment not to move online far earlier when it would have been easier to compete toe-to-toe with Amazon.

Barnes & Noble also made a classic error in declining to be price-competitive with Amazon. Online, books are fungible commodities – the same no matter where you buy them – and Barnes & Noble never did anything effective to persuade readers it was a better place to shop than Amazon was.

PG also believes that Amazon’s early and continuing embrace of self-published books was and is a huge competitive advantage over Barnes & Noble and everybody else. With Amazon’s incentives to sell indie ebooks on an exclusive basis, it had an inventory advantage that no one else could match.

PG hasn’t seen any serious acknowledgment from traditional news and publishing sources that indie ebooks are one of Amazon’s most important competitive advantages over other online retailers. PG suggests it’s similar to a blind spot on the part of the same people with respect to the importance and value of romance titles.

The blindness to the advantage Amazon’s own publishing imprints gives the company is also inadequately acknowledged by the traditional industry and its hangers-on.

PG just checked and five of Amazon’s top ten fiction bestsellers (print plus ebook) were from Amazon’s house publishers.



A New Generation of African-American-Owned Bookstores

14 April 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

When Troy Johnson began tracking the number of black-owned bookstores in the U.S. in 1999, there were more than 325. By 2014, that number had dwindled to 54, a decline of 83%.

“They were closing left and right, and the major ones were struggling,” said Johnson, who runs the African American Literature Book Club, an online book database. Today, Johnson estimates, there are at least 108 black-owned independent stores, a number of which have opened in the past six months, marking a substantial reversal. “Last year was the first year I added more stores to the list than I took away,” he noted.

The surge in black-owned indie bookstores is notable at a time when both bookselling and publishing are wrestling with issues of workforce diversity.

Ramunda and Derrick Young, wife-and-husband owners of the newly opened MahoganyBooks, looked for a physical location for years, but a wave of gentrification in Washington, D.C., left them with few promising options. That changed in early 2017, when they found a location in the Anacostia Arts Center, in the historically African-American neighborhood of Anacostia in Southeast D.C. Ramunda, a former general books manager of the Howard University Bookstore, said opening a store was a logical step toward diversifying the couple’s business after having run a books website serving predominately African-American readers for a decade.

MahoganyBooks opened in February and is the first bookstore in Anacostia in 20 years. The 500-sq.-ft. store has an adjacent events space for large readings. With tablets for readers to locate books online while they browse, the store fulfills the couple’s vision of “a bookstore 2.0,” Derrick said.

“Bookstore 2.0” is shorthand for the Youngs’ effort to integrate the physical store and the long-standing digital operation, creating independent sources of revenue that stand alone but point to one another. In-store technology points to the website, and the website now points to the physical store’s events. “We thought, if there were another big crazy economic downturn, how would we prepare ourselves so that we would have multiple streams of income?” Derrick said.

. . . .

When forensic anthropology professor Christina Benton opened Janco Books in Las Vegas in October 2017, readers asked if she would model her store after Native Son, a neighborhood African-American specialty bookstore that closed in 2008. Benton expanded the store’s African-American section, but she said her interest is in catering to as broad a community as possible. “It’s a general bookstore owned by an African-American person,” she said.

With a selection of new and used books, Janco caters most of all to families that homeschool in the area. “They buy the most, because they need to have the resources,” Benton said.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

The Disappearing Bookstore in the Digital Age

8 April 2018

From Grok Nation:

Movie World is a bookstore in downtown Burbank. Its interiors are lined with thousands of paperbacks, glorious oversized movie posters, and random ephemera, like Modern Mechanix back issues from the 1940’s with captivating cover art depicting “gee-whiz” gadgetry. There’s little rhyme or reason to each section, and if you dig around long enough, you will find something you never knew you always wanted. But after being around for fifty years, the shop is closing its doors forever.

. . . .

This isn’t the first bookshop in Los Angeles to recently close or announce closure. Just in January, the Barnes and Noble in Santa Monica quietly shut its doors for good. And the ever beloved Meltdown Comics on Sunset Boulevard, a haven for comic book fans and creatives for the past 25 years, sailed into the sunset on March 30th. In the past few years a plethora of book stores around LA and the Valley, too many to list, silently died.

This is alarming, since these institutions are special spaces, capable of enriching lives and igniting imaginations. Bookstores, libraries, and even comic book shops have served as places of entertainment, education and refuge.

Bookshops transformed my life. When I was in Kindergarten, I had a poor reading and comprehension level.  My father wasn’t happy. And at night, he’d force me to stay up and read chapters out of my English text book until I passed out. In the third grade, I remember him getting so upset about bad marks that he tore up my comics. It wasn’t until I discovered R.L. Stine’s Goosebumps, (corny, I know) at the local Waldens, a now-defunct company, that I began to enjoy reading. Something clicked: I stopped seeing words, and saw actual images when I read. I began to imagine, because I picked up the right book. That changed everything.

In the fifth grade I was kicked out of the reading aid program after the teacher caught me tearing through a Michael Crichton novel. By freshman year of high school, I’d gotten my first “real” job at the local library as a shelver.

. . . .

Today, I’m a bibliophile; I’m obsessed with reading and collecting books. I have this odd habit: although I already have shelves full of books that I haven’t even opened, I keep buying more hardcover books. The Japanese have a term for this, “Tsundoku.” No, it does not translate to “hoarder.” According to Wikipedia, it means to acquire reading materials and letting them pile up in one’s home without reading them. I’m not sure why I keep buying. I think it has to do with never having an excuse to be bored, because I have more than I could ever possibly read. Or maybe, I just like having countless make-believe escape pods.  Perhaps I keep loading up on books, because I’m paranoid about running out of places to find them.

Link to the rest at Grok Nation

Bye Bye, Geoffrey

4 April 2018

From Publishers Weekly:

“Have you heard that Toys R Us is closing?  You must be so glad!” is the greeting from dozens of customers over the last few weeks.  “Yes, I heard that,” I reply.  “Did you guys come in to visit me today—or is there something I can wrap for you?  I am unpacking new books… would you like to see?”

“So how’s business?  Are you guys OK?” is usually the follow-up query, delivered either sotto voce with a sympathetic look from a parent, or in the appraising raised eyebrow glance of the grandparent—that look that causes you to check your shirt for dribbles of donut frosting and a stray sprinkle or two. “We’re just great—how are YOU guys?  Wow, the kids get bigger every time I see them—my goodness, you’ll be taller than me in a week or so! Did you get an April calendar of activities? There’s a great author event tomorrow!”

And so we smile and tap dance and book talk and gift wrap and dazzle them with service, avoiding the hundredth or so conversation about another chain closing, another retail demise, another conversation about how “everyone buys online, now, you know.”

I’m not sad to lose a competitor, but TRU was never that. They are a chain that sells children’s products, as we do, but oh, the myriad of things they sell is hardly comparable to my little neighborhood shop.

. . . .

The ability of manufacturers to sell online immediately, without using TRU as a testing laboratory for new product lines, was also a factor. But retail, as we know, has fundamentally changed, while many retailers haven’t. Customers can buy almost anything cheaper, faster, and with less effort than a visit to the store that serves only one purpose. Multiply that truth tenfold if you factor in the effort of buckling a child or two into a car seat for the errand. And so, the allure of Geoffrey fades, as will the “everything must go” signs taped to the windows.

Link to the rest at Publishers Weekly

What we are seeing today is actually the second renaissance of indie bookselling, not the first

30 March 2018

From veteran publishing consultant Mike Shatzkin:

Publishing and digital change consultant Bill Rosenblatt — always worth paying attention to — pointed his contacts last week to a podcast from NPR celebrating the current renaissance of independent bookstores. The history reported as part of what was really the celebration of very recent events is useful to ponder, even if it was sometimes a bit confused about the timing of mall stores and superstores and their impact on indies. But its memory wasn’t long enough to recall a critical development that is essential to understanding book retailing over the past half-century and what makes it possible to be a successful  retailer of books today. And it elides the fact that indie bookstores have risen before, several decades ago.

The story the NPR report didn’t tell contains the kernal of a totally underappreciated fact of the book business. The first serious harnessing of the power of modern computing to improve the book supply ecosystem was by Ingram in the early 1970s. Ingram’s innovations over the past two decades, in what could be called the Amazon era, are critical elements of the modern book business infrastructure. Lightning’s print-on-demand capability and “third party fulfillment”, by which Ingram can turn any entity with a web address into an Internet bookseller, are the industry’s counterbalance to Amazon’s growth.

. . . .

The central challenge of book retailing has always been to use the store’s limited shelf space and inventory investment dollars to have the best possible selection of books in the store. Before Ingram’s seminal innovation, publishers and retailers had a many-to-many supply chain with hundreds of publishers selling to thousands of stores. Wholesaling — stocking a warehouse that could provide books from many publishers — faced the same challenge. Wholesalers in those days were predominantly “local” — many of them had added a few trade books to their magazine and mass-market paperback selections.

. . . .

The trade books were worth more to the wholesaler, unit for unit. When a title took off, the wholesaler could order a big shipment from the publisher and it got orders for the book quickly from local accounts. That’s where the money in book wholesaling was in those days, pumping the bestsellers, not “backing up” a store’s need for an additional copy here or there across the range of possible titles.

The fact that wholesalers stocked very few titles didn’t stop stores from trying to order what they needed from them. The net result was unsatisfactory for everybody. Wholesalers couldn’t fill most of the orders they got. Stores found resupply of anything except bestsellers from the local wholesaler to be time-consuming and inefficient. And the net result was that it was very hard to for most stores to match inventory to demand.

And that was a big part of the reason that independent bookstores had trouble competing with the mall store chains as they built out. They couldn’t compete with a better or more responsive selection of books because the supply chain inefficiencies, which included the fact that there were hardly any in-store stock tracking mechanisms in those days before personal computers, made that an insuperable challenge.

And then Ingram changed everything.

. . . .

One day Hoffman entertained a former Bell & Howell colleague who showed him their new microfiche reader technology. The microfiche enabled the delivery of data on a piece of film that could be read by a projecting reader. Enormous amounts of data could be put delivered quickly and inexpensively by microfiche, if only the recipient had the “reader” machine to look at it. Hoffman and his team quickly grasped the potential benefits if a store placed its orders to Ingram with advance knowledge of what was in stock and what was not.

They hit on a formula. If the stores would pay the “rental” cost of having the reader (about $10 a month), then Ingram would deliver its complete inventory record to the stores weekly, including both the titles being stocked and the Ingram inventory as of when the microfiche was cut. The benefit to the store was that there was a high likelihood that their order would be filled (except for some titles whose stock had been depleted during the week.) That made Ingram their wholesaler of choice.

And to Ingram, the benefits were even greater than the increased volume of business. They no longer were processing reams of orders they couldn’t fill.

. . . .

It was this innovation by Ingram that actually spawned the first big uptick in the number of large and successful independent bookstores.

. . . .

For the next twenty years, until the mid-1990s, successful book retailing increasingly depended on delivering “selection”: larger and larger title counts in the stores. Big selections were the signal to the consumer that they would find what they wanted. With increasingly sophisticated communication with Ingram and B&T, stores could get most high-demand books in a day or two if they weren’t in stock. The mall stores and smaller independents suffered because their smaller selections were less of a magnet to the book shopper.

Then Amazon changed everything again, becoming the first store that carried every book and would tell you exactly how long it would take for you to get it. Of course, they did that leaning primarily on Ingram’s inventory and reliable service to deliver.

Link to the rest at The Shatzkin Files

Another Downtown bookstore was destined for closure. Then these buyers called.

30 March 2018
Comments Off on Another Downtown bookstore was destined for closure. Then these buyers called.

From The Idaho Statesman:

For book lovers, the approaching end of Trip Taylor Booksellers was bad enough. Downtown Boise’s three bookstores would soon become two.

But as the news of Taylor’s going-out-of-business sale spread this month, a second of the three stores was being offered for sale with little fanfare. Its owners quietly braced to go out of business, too.

As potential buyers eyed their building, the couple who own Rainbow Books, a used bookstore at 1310 W. State St., faced the prospect that their shop could become a tattoo parlor.

“I steeled myself to the idea that the bookstore wasn’t going to go on after me,” said Laurie Deines, who co-owns the store and its building with her husband, Robb. “That was hard.”

. . . .

Then Bruce and Laura DeLaney came calling.

The DeLaneys own the third store, Rediscovered Books, at 180 N. 8th St. They offered to buy both the business and the building and to keep Rainbow Books going.

“That’s just so wonderful,” Deines said Wednesday, one day before the Deineses and the DeLaneys were scheduled to close the deal. The DeLaneys have been managing the store for the past two weeks. “I don’t have to dismantle the store or have a closing sale. I just had to give them the key.”

. . . .

The DeLaneys opened Rediscovered in 2006 in the Overland Park Shopping Center near Overland and Cole roads. He was a chemist who worked for Micron Technology, she an elementary-school music teacher in Boise and Meridian. “We thought there was a need in Boise for a classic indie bookstore,” Bruce DeLaney said. The couple moved the store Downtown in 2010.

. . . .

Rediscovered, meanwhile, seems to be thriving. It has 14 full- and part-time employees. Bruce DeLaney declined to disclose sales, though he said they have grown every year since the store moved Downtown.

. . . .

The DeLaneys have fostered a reading community. Bruce DeLaney said the store took part in 250 events last year in the store, at The Cabin literary center, in schools and elsewhere. The couple in 2015 expanded the bookstore into a neighboring space previously occupied by a clothing store.

When Rainbow went on the market, DeLaney said he and his wife thought its closing would be a shame, while its purchase would offer a chance for their own business to evolve.

“It’s been a kind of North End institution: People take their kids there. Boise High kids come over when ‘The Great Gatsby’ gets assigned,” DeLaney said. “It’s a wonderful, friendly little bookstore, like the kind that used to be all over the country.”

. . . .

Rainbow’s rescue comes amid tough times for bookstores all over the Treasure Valley. In 2016, Nampa lost The Book Exchange and Pearson’s Twice Sold Tales. Yesteryear Shoppe, also in Nampa, is in the process of closing.

Link to the rest at The Idaho Statesman

B&N Launches ‘Browsery’ Mobile App

29 March 2018

From Shelf Awareness:

Barnes & Noble has launched Browsery, a mobile app designed “to talk about books the way readers do,” according to the company, which called it “a new kind of digital browsing that’s a gateway for users to find new books and talk about the ones they love with fellow readers.”

. . . .

Browsery allows customers to like, comment or contribute answers to questions posed by the community or ask questions of their own. B&N will share content on its social channels, posting a Browsery “Question of the Day” on its national Facebook, Twitter and Instagram accounts; as well as sharing some of the best answers and recommendations from customers, booksellers and well-known authors on Browsery across its social channels. Stores nationwide will promote Browsery on their local social media pages, too.

Link to the rest at Shelf Awareness

Toy Makers Stare at $11 Billion Hole With Death of Toys ‘R’ Us

15 March 2018

From The Wall Street Journal:

The liquidation of Toys “R” Us Inc. has sent the toy industry reeling, leaving Mattel Inc., Hasbro Inc. and other manufacturers without a large chain devoted to selling games and dolls and forcing them to scramble to secure other outlets to carry their items.

Toys “R” Us, which had more than $11 billion in revenue in its last fiscal year, is part of a group of chains that were once seen by vendors as “category killers” and have emerged as crucial checks on the power of Inc.  Stores like Best Buy Co.  and Barnes & Noble Co. provide electronics manufacturers and book publishers with vast networks of physical showrooms.

The likely death of Toys “R” Us, which early Thursday filed plans to liquidate the U.S. operations and other businesses, means the $27 billion U.S. toy industry will no longer have a national partner to showcase their wares year-round, test experimental products and find the next Shopkins or Zhu Zhu pet.

It was a quick unraveling for Toys “R” Us since its September chapter 11 bankruptcy filing. In a call with employees Wednesday, Toys “R” Us Chief Executive David Brandon described a cascading series of events, starting with what he described as a “devastating” holiday season that led to plans to close more stores and then to exit from the baby-products business to focus on toys.

“The hole that we dug in the holiday season put us in a position where our lender became justifiably nervous as the company was continuing to consume cash,” Mr. Brandon said.

Ultimately, the company is expected to liquidate its entire U.S. operation, a decision that would impact 33,000 jobs. The company also is liquidating operations in other countries, and plans to sell its business in Canada, Central Europe and Asia.

. . . .

“This industry has been devastated,” said Tom Murdough, founder and CEO of Simplay3 Co., which makes plastic play sets and ridable vehicles. “This is a major, major hit to the industry.”

. . . .

The toy-industry growth rate could slump going forward too. Toys “R” Us was primarily responsible for uncovering what would become the next big thing, since it took chances that other retailers avoided. “There aren’t going to be as many breakout hits, not as many new items that can blossom,” said BMO Capital Markets analyst Gerrick Johnson. “Toys ‘R’ Us was a testing ground for a lot of things.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal

PG notes the mention of Barnes & Noble as playing a similar role in the book world as Toys R Us does in the toy world (although as he mentions in the WaPo item below this post, Toys R Us sells childrens books and major publishers have taken and will take a hit from the loss of this customer).

Toys R Us to close all 800 of its U.S. stores

15 March 2018

From The Washington Post:

Toy store chain Toys R Us is planning to sell or close all 800 of its U.S. stores, affecting as many as 33,000 jobs as the company winds down its operations after six decades, according to a source familiar with the matter.

The news comes six months after the retailer filed for bankruptcy. The company has struggled to pay down nearly $8 billion in debt — much of it dating to a 2005 leveraged buyout — and has had trouble finding a buyer. There were reports earlier this week that Toys R Us had stopped paying its suppliers, which include the country’s largest toymakers. On Wednesday, the company announced it would close all 100 of its U.K. stores. In the United States, the company told employees closures would likely occur over time, and not all at once.

. . . .

 Toys R Us, once the country’s preeminent toy retailer, has been unable to keep up with big-box and online competitors.

. . . .

 “There is no toy business without Toys R Us,” Larian said, noting that he sold his first product to the chain in 1979. “It’s a big deal and I’m going to try to salvage as much of it as possible.”

. . . .

 Despite turnaround efforts at Toys R Us, which included adding more hands-on “play labs,” retail experts say the 60-year-old company has been unable to get customers back into its stores.

. . . .

 “The liquidation of Toys R Us is the unfortunate but inevitable conclusion of a retailer that lost its way,” Neil Saunders, managing director of the research firm GlobalData Retail, wrote in an email. “Even during recent store closeouts, Toys R Us failed to create any sense of excitement. The brand lost relevance, customers and ultimately sales.”

Link to the rest at The Washington Post and thanks to Jan for the tip.

PG notes that Toys R Us also sells childrens books.

« Previous PageNext Page »