Tag: book business

How James Daunt, Barnes & Noble’s CEO, is Trying to Save Traditional Bookselling

Last year, in August of 2019, James Daunt, Managing Director of Waterstones and owner of multiple independent bookstores across London, was named the new CEO of Barnes & Noble.

New CEO Wants to Make Barnes & Noble Your Local Bookstore - WSJ

image via the wall street journal

The chain, while doing better off than other bookstore chains like Borders, which went bankrupt over a decade ago, is struggling to compete with bookselling giant Amazon. While Amazon accounts for almost 50% of book sales in America, Barnes & Noble’s only accounts for around 20% – a number that is that’s falling.

James Daunt has made some changes to Barnes & Noble in the last couple of months. A year ago, managers at different locations had little control over the book selection. Executives in New York decided which titles the chain will carry, and all 600-plus stores were expected to follow that blueprint, even though readers–and their taste–vary from store to store. This often results in those books not selling and the stores having to return about half the inventory to the publishers after a few months.

Today, each store manager gets to decide what their store carries and what they don’t, this, as James Daunt notes, empowers store managers to curate their shelves based on local tastes.

This is the same technique he used to save Waterstones from the same struggles Barnes & Noble is going through right now. “He’s essentially created a series of independent bookstores,” said Tom Weldon, the chief executive of Penguin Random House Books U.K., “with the buying power of a chain.”

“Frankly, at the moment you want to love Barnes & Noble, but when you leave the store you feel mildly betrayed,” Mr. Daunt said about the chain. “Not massively, but mildly. It’s a bit ugly — there’s piles of crap around the place. It all feels a bit unloved, the booksellers look a bit miserable, it’s all a bit run down.

Across the country, different Barnes & Noble locations are being remodeled to mimic the “feel” of independent bookstores, like this location in Virginia Beach.

Barnes & Noble says it's back to books with redesign in Virginia Beach - The Virginian-Pilot - The Virginian-Pilot

image via the virginian pilot

While Daunt’s full plans for the bookselling chain still remain somewhat a mystery, we can assume from his track record at Waterstones what is to come to Barnes & Noble. And by doing this, he doesn’t only hope to save the chain from going under, he also wants to save traditional bookselling.

Featured image via the times

Books Lovers Show Up for The Strand

Just last week, the Strand’s owner Nancy Bass Wyden, posted an open letter on social media asking for help from the community and asking them to buy books since their sales were down 70% compared to last year.

Test Your Book Smarts - The New York Times

image via the new york times

The letter was received with mixed opinions from people advocating for the stores and others blaming Waden for fiscal irresponsibility, buying Amazon stock, laying off workers after receiving a PPP loan of more than $1 million, and for not hiring black unionized workers. Despite the public’s perception of the owner, Nancy Wyden, book lovers were swift in their response after the letter was published.

Shortly after the release of this letter, people were lining up outside the two locations waiting to make purchases. By Saturday, they had received 10,000 online orders and by the end of the weekend they had received 25,000. The number of orders they would usually receive is 600. Their sales for those days are now their biggest sales for any October day ever. One story that stands out on this, is one costumer who purchased 197 books.

A union shop steward at the strand, Melissa Guzy, said “When people support the Strand, they aren’t just supporting Nancy, they’re supporting us, they’re supporting the workers.”

Despite the Strand’s effective call to action, many bookstores are still struggling to survive through the pandemic, so if you are purchasing any books soon, make sure to support your local independent bookstores!

Featured image via brooklynvegan


Bookspot of the Week: Libreria

It’s Bookspot time! Welcome back to bookspot of the week, where we have a chance to speak with amazing bookstores to quite frankly show them off. And if you didn’t know about them, now you do! This week we spoke with Lloyd Sowerbutts, the manager of a bookshop in London called, Libreria, it can be found at 65 Hanbury Street, London, E1 5JP.


Image via Libreria


How did your bookstore transition from concept to reality?

Libreria was conceived as a way for customers to discover new voices and ideas, which wouldn’t be easy in a conventionally merchandised bookshop, or internet retailer’s algorithm. Libreria’s books are grouped according to broad themes, such as: Wanderlust, Enchantment for the Disenchanted and Utopia.


What do you feel is unique to your bookstore?

 I feel that our thematic grouping of titles and the shop’s interior are the most obviously unique qualities.


If you had infinite space, what might you add to the store? A ‘speakeasy’ cocktail bar and reading space. 


Image via Libreria


How do you feel your bookstore fits into your local community?

Pre-lockdown, Libreria would host Language Labs, a programme conceived by a former colleague Gabi Spangenthal, which would offer a space for members of Second Home and other volunteers to offer local migrants a space to practice English that was formally taught by ELATT.


What does your store offer that a chain or online retailer can’t?

Libreria is designed to maximise the serendipitous discovery of new books and ideas. 


Do you hand-pick your staff to create a specific environment?

 Not particularly. I assume a love of books from all applicants, so I look for skills that would complement the existing team’s strengths and will help the shop grow into a space our customers cherish.


Image via Libreria


How else do you create a welcoming environment?

 I like to welcome our customers to the shop, as they are the lifeblood of the shop. We are happy to order books that we don’t currently have in stock. Ultimately, nothing should ever be a problem to solve. 


What about your store do you think appeals to your neighborhood?

I believe the shop’s beauty makes it a destination for many of our customers. Our social initiatives and event programme offer a different quality to other bookshops.


Do you have any staff picks or releases we should watch out for?

We are always talking about books that excite us via our Instagram and newsletter channels. Customers can sign up to our newsletter, via www.libreria.io


Image via Libreria


Do you tailor your inventory according to your community?

Absolutely! Each month, the team selects the books that we believe will appeal to the many tastes and interests of our customers.


What’s your favorite book?

This is a tough one. I have never been able to whittle it to a single book. I’m curious by nature, so my favourite books reflect this. If I was forced to pick a few, they would be: The Sixth Extinction by Elizabeth Kolbert, Lost Japan by Alex Kerr, The Minotaur Takes a Cigarette Break by Steven Sherrill and The Black Tulip by Alexandre Dumas. 


Image via Libreria
Feature Image via Libreria

Paper Book Sales Decline Slightly

According to Publishers Weekly, unit sales of print books fell 5.5% last week, with no big books hitting shelves that week.

The adult nonfiction and fiction categories were the hardest hit, with a decline of about 8% last week. The only major publishing category that increased in sales was juvenile nonfiction, which had a 0.5% gain. Some other genres also saw an increase in sales, such as social situations/family/health, which were up 41.7%, and biographies/autobiographies, ahead 24%, while there was also some smaller declines in the bigger subgenre areas of education/reference/language, games/activities/hobbies, and history/sports/people/places.


Sales are expected to rise in the next quarter as holiday shopping season approaches. This season is also crucial for independent bookstores as they make most of their revenue during this season. Booksellers are encouraging to start holiday shopping early this year due to printing shortages.

Featured image via Pixnio