The rise of digital e-books continues to leave a negative mark on the brick-and-mortar book shop industry.
The Wall Street Journal reports Barnes & Noble, the last major book shop chain standing after Borders closed its doors for good in 2011, is planning to close twenty stores per year over the next ten years.
UPDATE: Barnes & Noble has issued the following statement to Hypable where they down play any fears that these closures are outside of expectations. Further, they say their physical locations are very much a part of their longterm plan.
“Barnes & Noble has not adjusted its store closing plan whatsoever. The Wall Street Journal article today implies that our rate of store closures has changed. We have historically closed approximately 15 stores per year for the last 10 years. Of that number some of the stores are unprofitable while others are relocations to better properties. The numbers reported today by the Wall Street Journal are consistent with analysts’ expectations. It should be noted that Barnes & Noble opened two new prototype stores in 2012 and in 2013 plans to test several other prototypes, as well. Barnes & Noble has great real estate in prime locations and the Company’s management is fully committed to the retail concept for the long term.”
It’s a small number per year, but a clear sign of where the company believes it needs to be headed in the near term. Barnes & Noble currently has just under 700 stores open. This past holiday season’s sale numbers were 10% less than how it did in the holiday season prior.
Amazon, Apple, and other tech companies can be put to blame for Barnes & Noble’s downfall. The company has competed in the rising e-book market by launching its own digital reading device, the Nook, but it has failed to rise to popularity like the iPad and the Kindle. Another factor hurting Barnes & Noble’s stores is the fact that people use the store to window shop. That is, they’ll search for books within the store but then buy them using their Kindle or iPad once they’re back at home for a cheaper price in a digital format.
No matter how loyal we become to e-book devices, we’ll always love the feel of going into a book store and finding a physical copy to read. There’s also the personal enjoyment of a cozy coffee shop within a book store that can’t be beat. Barnes & Noble’s free wifi offerings help complete the overall in-store experience.
If there’s one silver lining to this news: Mom and pop book shops (as they’re called) can rise to the occasion and be replacements for communities with closed Barnes & Noble stores.