Barnes & Noble turnaround to include LI growth, bookseller says

Reading has been more than fundamental to Barnes & Noble.

It has also been more profitable for the bookseller since its sale in 2019 and due to changing consumer habits during the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that the once-struggling chain is opening 16 new stores this year, including one at Riverhead.

“As sales and profits have increased, its ability to invest in renovating its existing stores and opening new bookstores has increased. In short, the expansion is driven by its success,” Barnes & Noble told Newsday in email responses to questions this week.

The Riverhead store, which will be Barnes & Noble’s eighth location on Long Island, will open on or about Nov. 2 at 1470 Old Country Rd. and employ 15 to 20 people, the retailer said. Pier 1 Imports left the space in 2020 after the home decor chain’s parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Renovations are underway for the bookstore, which measures 10,811 square feet, said Nancy Erickson, executive general manager and broker for real estate firm Colliers International, which represents the owner of the Riverhead Center on leasing matters.

Barnes & Noble is the only national physical bookstore chain remaining in the United States.

For several years before being sold off in 2019, the Manhattan-based retailer struggled as fewer people bought books, and e-commerce giant Amazon, the world’s largest book retailer, slashed bookstore sales.

As of January 2009, Barnes & Noble Inc. had 778 stores, with 726 operating as Barnes & Noble Booksellers and 52 operating primarily as B. Dalton Bookseller.

Now Barnes & Noble, which has 599 stores, is planning expansion.

Barnes & Noble’s growth bodes well for all physical stores, including smaller independent stores, as the publishing industry wants to see physical stores continue, said Jim Milliot, editorial director of Publishers Weekly, a Manhattan-based trade publication.

“They’re the main physical counterweight to Amazon,” he said.

Currently, the only bookstore in Riverhead is a small business called A Book Place, a 700 square foot boutique that East Moriches resident Jocelyn Maningo Kaleita recently opened. The store, located at 489 E. Main St., is about a 10-minute drive from the new Barnes & Noble.

“Considering I’m a brand new bookseller, I opened in July, it’s not my favorite thing that Barnes & Noble is considering coming here,” she said.

A Book Place specializes in independent, self-published books — “things you won’t necessarily find at Barnes & Noble,” said Kaleita, 39.

Some changes in recent years that have improved the fortunes of booksellers.

Online book sales have surged during the pandemic, especially when consumers were stuck at home with limited entertainment options.

Barnes & Noble was also helped by the sale of the company in 2019, book industry experts said.

Private equity firm Elliot Advisors bought Barnes & Noble and appointed James Daunt as the new managing director of the chain, which went private. Daunt had transformed England’s largest bookstore chain, Waterstones, also owned by Elliot Advisors.

“I think people would say that Daunt and the investment company that backs him has put more into the stores than the old regime didn’t and he’s really instilled some different buying ideas about how the [retailer’s] book buyers buy books,” such as placing lower initial orders as part of a plan to reduce book returns, Milliot said.

Barnes & Noble has also changed the way it runs stores by decentralizing operations by letting its stores decide which books they will carry “to run the best possible bookstore for their community,” Barnes & Noble said.

Barnes & Noble plans to open 30 stores in 2023, the retailer said.

“That compares to a total of just 15 openings in the nine years from 2010 to 2019. Before Amazon really pulled back physical bookstores, Barnes & Noble had been able to grow strongly. In the 16 years between 1993 and 2008, it opened an average of 35 new stores each year,” Barnes & Noble said.

Reading has been more than fundamental to Barnes & Noble.

It has also been more profitable for the bookseller since its sale in 2019 and due to changing consumer habits during the COVID-19 pandemic, so much so that the once-struggling chain is opening 16 new stores this year, including one at Riverhead.

“As sales and profits have increased, its ability to invest in renovating its existing stores and opening new bookstores has increased. In short, the expansion is driven by its success,” Barnes & Noble told Newsday in email responses to questions this week.

The Riverhead store, which will be Barnes & Noble’s eighth location on Long Island, will open on or about Nov. 2 at 1470 Old Country Rd. and employ 15 to 20 people, the retailer said. Pier 1 Imports left the space in 2020 after the home decor chain’s parent company filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

Renovations are underway for the bookstore, which measures 10,811 square feet, said Nancy Erickson, executive general manager and broker for real estate firm Colliers International, which represents the owner of the Riverhead Center on leasing matters.

Barnes & Noble is the only national physical bookstore chain remaining in the United States.

For several years before being sold off in 2019, the Manhattan-based retailer struggled as fewer people bought books, and e-commerce giant Amazon, the world’s largest book retailer, slashed bookstore sales.

As of January 2009, Barnes & Noble Inc. had 778 stores, with 726 operating as Barnes & Noble Booksellers and 52 operating primarily as B. Dalton Bookseller.

Now Barnes & Noble, which has 599 stores, is planning expansion.

Barnes & Noble’s growth bodes well for all physical stores, including smaller independent stores, as the publishing industry wants to see physical stores continue, said Jim Milliot, editorial director of Publishers Weekly, a Manhattan-based trade publication.

“They’re the main physical counterweight to Amazon,” he said.

Currently, the only bookstore in Riverhead is a small business called A Book Place, a 700 square foot boutique that East Moriches resident Jocelyn Maningo Kaleita recently opened. The store, located at 489 E. Main St., is about a 10-minute drive from the new Barnes & Noble.

“Considering I’m a brand new bookseller, I opened in July, it’s not my favorite thing that Barnes & Noble is considering coming here,” she said.

A Book Place specializes in independent, self-published books — “things you won’t necessarily find at Barnes & Noble,” said Kaleita, 39.

Some changes in recent years that have improved the fortunes of booksellers.

Online book sales have surged during the pandemic, especially when consumers were stuck at home with limited entertainment options.

Barnes & Noble was also helped by the sale of the company in 2019, book industry experts said.

Private equity firm Elliot Advisors bought Barnes & Noble and appointed James Daunt as the new managing director of the chain, which went private. Daunt had transformed England’s largest bookstore chain, Waterstones, also owned by Elliot Advisors.

“I think people would say that Daunt and the investment company that backs him has put more into the stores than the old regime didn’t and he’s really instilled some different buying ideas about how the [retailer’s] book buyers buy books,” such as placing lower initial orders as part of a plan to reduce book returns, Milliot said.

Barnes & Noble has also changed the way it runs stores by decentralizing operations by letting its stores decide which books they will carry “to run the best possible bookstore for their community,” Barnes & Noble said.

Barnes & Noble plans to open 30 stores in 2023, the retailer said.

“That compares to a total of just 15 openings in the nine years from 2010 to 2019. Before Amazon really pulled back physical bookstores, Barnes & Noble had been able to grow strongly. In the 16 years between 1993 and 2008, it opened an average of 35 new stores each year,” Barnes & Noble said.

SALES OF PRINTED BOOKS IN THE UNITED STATES

2019: 700.1 million

2020: 757.1 million

2021: 826.5 million

Source: NPD BookScan

Lucas E. Kelly