The very sad decline of Barnes and Noble

(written by lawrence krubner, however indented passages are often quotes). You can contact lawrence at:, or follow me on Twitter.

Interesting and sad:

So, if you were trying to solve the problem – if you were trying to revitalize this business – what would you do?

“Oh, I know! I would tighten my belt at the executive level, then I would double-down on what we can offer that Amazon can’t: enthusiastic staff that can find and upsell books to suit each customer, and the largest in-store selection possible so that everyone who comes in can walk away with what they want. If I absolutely had no choice but to reduce payroll, I would eliminate some part-time positions, and count on the knowledge and experience of our veterans to get us through the lean times.”

Those are definitely the choices you would make if you wanted to rebuild a company to last.

But here’s a secret:

The Barnes & Noble executives do not intend to rebuild.

How do I know this? Because every decision from the upper levels is being made solely to increase cash on hand.

There’s been so many things – so many things – but me tell you about the canary in the coal mine. Let me tell you how I know saving Barnes & Noble is not in the home office’s plans.

Last summer, the decision was made to switch to “ship from store”. Previously, when a customer ordered a book online, the book would be shipped to them from one of our warehouses. The new policy, however, had stores taking books off their shelves, packaging them up, and sending them out each day.

This was to “decrease shipping time by sending books from the closest location to the customer.”

(Spoiler alert: that wasn’t true.)

So each store takes employees off the selling floor – where they could, you know, help customers – and sets them to fill orders. The stores remove books from their own shelves and mail them out.

The stores do not get credit for those sales.

Let me repeat:

The stores do not get credit for those sales.

The company makes money. The brick and mortar store – which Barnes & Noble is based on – loses the opportunity to sell that book (pissing off customers), and gets nothing in return.

Which hurts the bottom line of that store.

“Uh-oh, your sales dropped. Better cut back hours.”

This is a decision that is only made if the executive level of a company is no longer interested in helping their business. This is a decision that is made only if the executive level has decided the company is dying, and don’t care if they hasten along the demise as long as they can harvest the organs for themselves and leave everyone else with the shriveled husk.

Post external references

  1. 1