We shopped at Barnes & Noble and saw a key shortcoming that’s holding it back in its battle against Amazon

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From Business Insider:

Barnes & Noble is struggling to keep up with Amazon.

The bookstore giant, which has more than 630 locations in the United States, is losing steam in its competition with Amazon. And, some analysts say, its failure to adapt to changing shopping habits could be to blame.

“People may drop in for a browse but they won’t make a dedicated trip to a bookstore,” GlobalDataRetail analyst Neil Saunders told The Guardian. “They don’t have the need and they don’t have the time. The way people shop changed, and that’s been detrimental for Barnes & Noble.”

Barnes & Noble has tried to combat people’s shifting attitudes towards shopping by creating a great in-store experience, but in doing so, they seem to have become more like libraries than bookstores. People come to browse books, study, have a cup of coffee, and meet up with their friends — not necessarily to buy books.

In the past five years, Barnes & Noble has lost more than $1 billion in value. It cut 1,800 full-time jobs earlier this year.

Link to the rest at Business Insider which includes lots of photos and thanks to Dave for the tip.

The author of the OP visited the Barnes & Noble store on Union Square, a busy area in Manhattan near Greenwich Village. The author reports a lot of people in the store reading books, but few buying anything other than at the cafe.

12 thoughts on “We shopped at Barnes & Noble and saw a key shortcoming that’s holding it back in its battle against Amazon”

  1. “We shopped at Barnes & Noble and saw a key shortcoming that’s holding it back in its battle against Amazon”

    ‘A key shortcoming’? As in one? They only saw one?? Didn’t we have someone here write up 37 reasons B&N is doing itself in?

    A ‘key’ shortcoming is B&N doesn’t seem to ‘want’ you shopping there.

    • The key shortcoming was that people in the store weren’t buying books. Whatever contributes to that, that really is the key. Indies are swimming against the same tide. Why do you think that is?

  2. The “resort” cart is insane. Might as well post a sign “We are a library and don’t expect you to spend any money.”

  3. Barnes & Noble is struggling to keep up with Amazon.

    Hobbling on his remaining leg, Joe is struggling to keep ahead of the raging bear.

  4. I forget: do AmazonBooks stores have attached cafes?
    I don’t remember anybody mentioning it in the reviews.

    I’m pretty sure they don’t have bins for people willing to buy a book sight unseen. Must be for people who *really* believe in letting the universe take care of them.

      • If I ever wanted to randomize my reading (which I don’t) I’d just got to the Kindle master list, sort by price, and download the first free four star book that pops up.

        I would expect most of the books in that blind bin to be overstock, total canines. 😉

      • Agreed. Especially if you end up choosing a book based on those simple descriptions because you like those things, and then you find out you’ve spent 8 pounds on a book you already own. I guess those sorts of things are for people who *really* like curation and don’t like having as many options as we do these days.

    • The one south of Boston at Legacy Place in Dedham has no attached cafe. Of course, Legacy place seems to have 30-40% of its storefronts as restaurants, so that may be an outlier.

  5. I wonder what would happen if they charged an entry fee. Would all those people looking for places to work or entertain their kids or browse without buying be willing to pay a nominal fee for the opportunity to do so? I would guess that a lot of them would, especially depending on the area and what else is available. If they’re going to be treated as a library, they might as well accept that they can’t expect to run their business on purchases. Seems like it would be smart of them to take a hard look at how people are using their stores and adapt to that rather than expecting and hoping people will change their habits.

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