New York Magazine published a very interesting article about Barnes & Noble a while back. The article gives an insight into the thinking and doing at B&N.
Some quotes from the article and facts from other sources:
- The founder of B&N, Riggio, told a reporter a decade ago “I wake up and say that any business created before 1997 is going to be a fossil by the year 2010.”
- Yet, the company’s retail people saw Borders as the real competition
- Investing in technology was minimal “enough to be meaningful but not enough to cannibalize.”
- Amazon launched in 1995. B&N launched their website in May 1997.
- B&N debuted an e-book store in 2001. The adventure lasted a couple of years. Apparently there was also an e-reader but I did not find specs online (“too early is as bad as too late”)
- Amazon launched Kindle in 2007
- B&N launched Nook in 2009
- Kindle books sell more than hardcover books in 2010
- B&N pays about $13 wholesale for a hardcover book that retails for $26. With e-books, margins are far lower—as of now, typically in the neighborhood of $3 or $4.
- As of July 31, 2010, B&N operates 717 bookstores in 50 states and the District of Columbia. Barnes & Noble College Booksellers operated 633 college bookstores at colleges and universities across the United States.
I found this a scary recap of what has happened with B&N and the environment it operates in. For sure I hope B&N stores will not have the same faith as the Virgin Megastores (last store closing in NY). To me B&N stores equal a cosy environment in which you can browse and explore in peace or with some coffee topped with knowledgable and friendly employees.
What would you do if you were heading B&N, how would you continue to differentiate?
Update Feb 17: Borders filed for Chapter 11 first!