Where has Barnes & Noble's (B&N) market share gone? To Amazon.com, of course, again raising the question of what B&N can do to reverse its decline.
According to the CEO of B&N's retail business, Mitchell Klipper, one of the things the company can do to improve its position is to close underperforming stores.
In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Mr. Klipper said the chain plans to close about 20 stores a year for the next decade. At the end of that time, B&N should have somewhere between 450 and 500 stores.
"You have to adjust your overhead, and get smart with smart systems," Mr. Klipper told the Journal. "Is it what it used to be when you were opening 80 stores a year and dropping stores everywhere? Probably not. It's different. But every business evolves."
While closing some stores makes sense, according to Mr. Klipper, 97 percent of B&N locations are profitable. He also doesn't subscribe to the theory that e-books will replace printed works.
B&N also sought to downplay any inference that it was changing its pattern of store closings. In an email to Fast Company, the bookstore chain offered a statement which included the following: "We have historically closed approximately 15 stores per year for the past 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 in 2012, Barnes & Noble opened two new prototype stores 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."
How important are brick and mortar locations to the success of Barnes & Noble and other bookstores in the future?