The Slow Death of Barnes&Noble

barnes and noble logo

Barnes & Noble recently laid off 1800 employees.

This is one more step along its slow demise along with other “big box” brands being cannibalized by Amazon and other online retailers.

On Monday morning, every single Barnes & Noble location – that’s 781 stores – told their full-time employees to pack up and leave. The eliminated positions were as follows: the head cashiers (those are the people responsible for handling the money), the receiving managers (the people responsible for bringing in product and making sure it goes where it should), the digital leads (the people responsible for solving Nook problems), the newsstand leads (the people responsible for distributing the magazines), and the bargain leads (the people responsible for keeping up the massive discount sections).

I’m conflicted by this news, because I have something of a love/hate relationship with B&N.

Let’s start with the bad points first

  • I don’t ever want to see people lose their jobs. Ever.
  • B&N handled this really poorly. Not unexpected from a large corporation, but still not right.
  • B&N becoming a victim of “efficiency” and “profitability” at the sake of no longer being an interesting place to drink coffee and peruse books. Ayn Rand ultra-capitalism in action.
  • One less place to purchase books in your neighborhood (eventually), and one less e-reader to foster competition in the online space

Now let’s focus on the “good” points

  • Barnes & Noble (and Borders) all but killed independent bookstores in the 1990’s. Their collapse will create a space for small business owners to rise up
  • The lack of any physical bookstore in an area may drive people back to their local library (we can hope).
  • With proper leadership, maybe Barnes & Noble can save itself and get back to selling books on a smaller scale (instead of toys and board games)

There are a few items I purchase regularly at my local B&N, mainly magazines, that Amazon doesn’t carry. Shocking, I know.

The problem is that Barnes & Noble has begun to reek of desperation, in all the wrong ways. Like other big retailers who had their predatory hay day in the late 90’s and early 2000’s and ignored digital sales ::cough, Gamestop, cough:: they are adopting wildly irritating tactics in an attempt to salvage their remaining customers.

I want to buy a book or magazine. I do not want to

  • sign up for your discount card
  • buy more things to “save money”
  • sign up for your marketing emails under the guise of “getting my receipt emailed to me”

These are all annoyances that make myself, and most customers I bet, just want to shop online even more. This latest move to eliminate their full-time employees aka “the knowledgeable people who will provide customer service” will only hurt their shoppers experience even further.

What do you think? Do you shop at Barnes & Noble? Will you sit on the sidelines, shopping at Amazon until you hear about the going-out-of-business sale to get cheap hardcovers?

I won’t mourn the death of Barnes & Noble specifically, but more what its collapse signifies.

18 thoughts on “The Slow Death of Barnes&Noble”

  1. I’m all for it. Gigantic, old trees have to fall for new growth to occur. I’m looking forward to a renaissance of smaller bookstores, rather than coffee shops that sell books, games, ‘nerd couture’, and periodicals.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hah! ‘Nerd couture’. Those Tomo Pop figurines really are a vinyl death knell for any business that has lost its way, aren’t they? My hope is that people will eventually begin to miss the voids created by Amazon, and leave the house to support small businesses with quality customer service. Otherwise I guess we all end up plugged into the Matrix…

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Which isn’t inherently a bad thing, right? If you’re a regular shopper and could be saving money then that is great. But when they make their employees aggressively recite a script of add-ons like a robot, it just feels gross and makes me want to purchase my book and go. I’d much prefer more signage, and the employees have additional information if I ask about it. Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Great post. We have a B&N near us, and really the part of the store that gets the most traffic is the coffee shop. That, and the children’s literature area. I guess that’s something these larger stores can do better than the tiny bookshops–have enough space to devote to kids stuff, books, toys, even storytime rocking chairs and little events. Community aspects are what Amazon can’t do. But as far as plain old books–Amazon’s got it all over B&N.


  3. I absolutely agree. As a incurable bookworm I mourn the loss of bookstores. Apart from the human cost of B&N I don’t mourn them. They fell on their own sword. I have a discount book store near me and I love it. I can’t go in there looking for the latest bonkbuster, it’s not that kind of place – but I CAN go in with excitement and trepidation as to what treasures I’ll find that I’d never have even looked at in a different store. The King is dead, long live the King!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. B&N (like Blockbuster for movies) destroyed most mid-tier and indie retailers in the early 2000’s along with Borders. That actually ended up hurting mid-list authors because B&N never prioritized having “back catalog” books on their shelves. I agree on the local shops. I think in a few years it’s going to be online retailers for the broad inventory, and smaller local places for the excellent customer service and enthusiasts who want to seek out something unexpected to enjoy. Thanks for commenting.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I for one am hopeful to see a return of personable small book stores. I hate employees who don’t know anything about what they sell and I hate membership clubs.
    But I love actual books that are smooth and smell good….

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Same. I’m really hopeful since everyone I’ve spoken to about this seems to feel the same way, which is they want smaller and more intimate places to shop for books. It is really terrible when you go into these large places and the employees have almost no knowledge of the products outside of looking them up on a computer. It’s honestly how Amazon gets them. I can search, read reviews, and order on a screen myself.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Yes, I’m pretty guilty of amazon shopping for most things. BUT I am not loyal to amazon. At all. If I found a place that made me feel like a valued customer, I would drop amazon in a heartbeat, forgo saving a few dollars and have same day delivery because I bring it home myself!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s a sad but true statement. In fact, less are reading each year (at least in the U.S.) in print or ebook. Audio books, TV, movies and video games continue to grow. I’ve seen studies that blame numerous factors, but point to shortened attention spans/focus, and less desire to use imagination.

      Liked by 1 person

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