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For Barnes & Noble, Rightsizing Means Resizing

Bracha Arnold
July 6, 2022
For Barnes & Noble, Rightsizing Means Resizing

Our recent white paper dove into the retail strategies that brands are using to rightsize effectively. We analyzed store optimization plans from leading retailers to find out how closing or re-imagining a retail location can help increase foot traffic. Read on for some of the highlights, and check out the full report here

Barnes & Noble Turns a New Page

Rightsizing doesn’t just mean closing stores – for some retailers, like Barnes & Noble, rightsizing can mean literally resizing the store area. The retailer used to command two to three story locations, but over the past few years, as much of book-selling moved online, the chain had to close locations due to a drop in demand. The company appointed James Daunt, head of the UK-based Waterstones bookstore chain, as the new Barnes & Noble CEO. Under his management, the chain revamped its retail strategy, following a similar approach to the retail turnaround that Waterstones undertook. 

The chain’s new strategy includes fighting against chain uniformity by allowing each location’s staff to curate book selections according to its community's needs – and as part of the shift towards locally-embedded, community-oriented bookstores, Barnes & Noble is also resizing its venues. According to Daunt, the chain can drive the same volume out of a 8,000 square foot store as a 25,000 square foot store. In June 2020, for example, the company announced the closing of several large and costly locations. At the same time, Barnes & Noble opened a 14,000 square feet new location in Sarasota, FL – half the size of Sarasota's other Barnes & Noble location. 

Resizing Effectively

Comparing the two Sarasota, FL locations shows that the resizing is paying off. The smaller North Cattlemen Road location, which opened in June 2020, is seeing more than double the number of visitors per square foot than the neighboring South Tamiami Trail location, which is closer to the average Barnes & Noble size of 26,000 square feet. 

The North Cattlemen location saw 3.23 visitors per square foot in Q1 2022, while the South Tamiami Trail saw just 1.38 visitors per square foot – less than half the visits per square foot of the smaller location. The location data indicates that smaller format stores are indeed giving Barnes & Noble significantly more bang for its buck. 

A similar pattern can be seen in Maryland. The Rockville Pike location opened in August 2020 at 13,000 square feet, and is located just a 15 minute drive from the traditional, large-format store on Grand Corner Ave in Gaithersburg, MD. Here too, visits per square foot at the smaller format store have consistently outpaced visits per square foot at the larger location. 

Companies are constantly looking for the best way to maximize their customer reach while operating in the most efficient way possible. Oftentimes this can be accomplished by strategic store closings – but rethinking a store’s size, location, and format can be just as effective. 

For more examples of stores that are successfully rightsizing, whether by closing stores or reimagining them, check out our white paper here

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