In 2019, Barnes & Noble had 627 stores in the United States, three fewer than in the previous year. The company had 726 locations all across the country back in 2008, however this figure has been decreasing ever since, with the sharpest drop recorded between 2012 and 2013. Barnes & Noble has had a patchy few years in terms of its profitability and reported a net loss of almost 125.5 million U.S. dollars in 2018, followed by net income of just 3.77 million in 2019. The company has also drastically reduced its number of employees, replacing full-time workers earning an annual salary with part-time staff on lower wages.
Barnes & Noble and beyond: a changing market
The dwindling presence of physical bookstores in the U.S. is often blamed solely on Amazon. However, Barnes & Noble’s focus on expanding its repertoire beyond just books (including the launch of several restaurants within its stores) has led to consumers and news publications alike questioning precisely what the retailer has become and how it intends to move forward.
In June 2019, it was announced that investment firm Elliot Management Corporation would acquire Barnes & Noble for a sum of more than 680 million U.S. dollars, just over a year after purchasing a majority stake in British book chain Waterstones. The situation for bookstores in the United Kingdom is similar to those in the U.S. – despite Waterstones ranking as one of the most popular retail brands in the UK, this popularity does not necessarily translate into sales and the company has struggled to keep up.
E-commerce has had a profound effect on brick and mortar stores in general, but whilst plenty of consumers still prefer to purchase many products instore, when it comes to books this is not always the case. A 2019 study in the U.S. revealed that books are most commonly purchased via a third-party marketplace, with 42 percent of survey respondents stating that they had purchased books from third-party online sellers in the past year. Third-party marketplaces were more popular for buying books than any other product type, and books were among the least likely products to be purchased in a physical store. Perhaps unsurprisingly, books were also among the leading product categories purchased by Amazon shoppers. In a market where monthly retail sales of U.S. bookstores are prone to serious seasonal changes and rarely surpass 700 million dollars, chains like Barnes & Noble look to have a difficult future ahead of them.
Number of Barnes & Noble stores from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2019
Barnes and Nobles uses the following periods as to measure financial results:
FY 2019: April 28, 2018 to April 27, 2019,
FY 2018: May 1, 2017 to April 28, 2018,
FY 2017: May 1, 2016 to April 29, 2017,
FY 2016: May 3, 2015 to April 30, 2016,
FY 2015 May 4, 2014 to May 2, 2015,
FY 2014 April 28, 2013 to May 3, 2014,
FY 2013 April 29, 2012 to April 27, 2013,
FY 2012 May 1, 2011 to April 28, 2012,
FY 2011 May 1, 2010 to April 30, 2011,
FY 2009 May 3, 2009 2010 ended on May 1, 2010
13 weeks transition period from Fabruary 1, 2009 to ending May 2, 2009
FY 2008 February 3, 2009 January 21, 2009. Fiscal year before 2009 all ended on or around 31 of January. The figures forthe period 2005 to 2011 come from previous annual reports.
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Barnes & Noble. (June 19, 2019). Number of Barnes & Noble stores from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2019 [Graph]. In Statista. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.statista.com/statistics/199012/number-of-barnes-noble-stores-by-type-and-year-since-2005/
Barnes & Noble. "Number of Barnes & Noble stores from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2019." Chart. June 19, 2019. Statista. Accessed July 10, 2020. https://www.statista.com/statistics/199012/number-of-barnes-noble-stores-by-type-and-year-since-2005/
Barnes & Noble. (2019). Number of Barnes & Noble stores from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2019. Statista. Statista Inc.. Accessed: July 10, 2020. https://www.statista.com/statistics/199012/number-of-barnes-noble-stores-by-type-and-year-since-2005/
Barnes & Noble. "Number of Barnes & Noble Stores from Fiscal Year 2005 to Fiscal Year 2019." Statista, Statista Inc., 19 Jun 2019, https://www.statista.com/statistics/199012/number-of-barnes-noble-stores-by-type-and-year-since-2005/
Barnes & Noble, Number of Barnes & Noble stores from fiscal year 2005 to fiscal year 2019 Statista, https://www.statista.com/statistics/199012/number-of-barnes-noble-stores-by-type-and-year-since-2005/ (last visited July 10, 2020)