March 19 , 2018

Trouble at Barnes and Noble

Our news regarding Barnes and Noble has been a mixed bag. First and foremost, the chain had a terrible year in 2017 and is taking some drastic actions this year. Those of you who have been with us for awhile know I've been on Barnes and Noble death watch for some time. We've just seen ToysRUs file for bankruptcy and plan to liquidate all of its stores. Barnes is similar in that it is also a 1990s-style big box store. They have announced plans to close some stores, reduce the number of employees in the stores, and only open smaller stores in the future. This sounds like the death spiral continues.
But, they remain the largest book chain by far, though they only do less than half of Amazon's business. Still, we cannot ignore 17% of the marketplace. One in six books is sold through B&N!
At Sunbury Press, we have been losing money when dealing with the chain book trade since early 2017. We have noticed an uptick in returns and a slight decline in new orders. Meanwhile, our sales in other channels have grown thanks to direct sales to readers, direct sales to independent bookstores, and our growing online business. This downturn when dealing with the big chains tells me they are in trouble. We don't want to be left hanging when they fold -- like the dozens of publishers who went out of business when Borders closed and returned millions of dollars in unsold books. We are quietly switching our strategy with Barnes to deal directly with them, rather than through Ingram. Through the direct arrangement, Barnes agrees not to return books. We've also "rekindled" our eBook deal with them. Look for many of our books to be available again on the Nook. The main reason I am doing this is I believe this will be sold off -- likely to Kobo or Apple and will give us entré onto those platforms in a big way.