For the past couple of decades, everyone has been saying that traditional paper books will soon die. And the general degradation of the education system, together with the decline in the cultural level of the masses, make books unpopular.
What should happen to the booksellers? Contrary to sad forecasts, America's largest retailer, Barnes & Noble, continues to grow its sales. The hard work of attracting customers to their stores, creating a special atmosphere there, the emergence of new directions of trade and the introduction of a loyalty program remains behind the scenes.
And the history of the glorious brand began in 1873. Then Charles Montgomery Barnes opened in Wheaton, Illinois, a trade in used books. In 1917, his son William Barnes sold his share in the family business. This money helped him move to New York and acquire a stake in the Noble & Noble bookstore. The store sold educational literature with an emphasis on wholesaling to schools, libraries and colleges. The company received a new name - Barnes & Noble, since 1929 it was completely transferred to William Barnes.
In 1932, during the Great Depression, the businessman took important steps that ensured the future prosperity of the company. On Fifth Avenue, in the heart of New York City, the company was able to acquire a large bookstore space cheaply. The store itself continued to study textbooks, which turned out to be a good decision. After all, universities and schools worked even during the crisis, people studied, therefore, they needed book manuals.
The company was constantly thinking about how to better serve its visitors. So in 1941, a system of issuing a paper strip with a number to each visitor of the store was introduced. On this piece of paper, some sellers recorded the name of the books they bought, others packed the goods, and still others took money. Thus, a kind of conveyor was created, which made it possible to speed up service.
It is worth noting that it was Barnes's store that became the first in the American bookselling to start serving its customers by phone. These steps allowed the business to grow. In 1944, the company acquired the small publishing house Hayden & Eldredge and began publishing books itself.
But a strong leader turned out to be a weakness of the company - after all, everything rested on him. When Barnes & Noble president John Barnes, son of the founder, died in 1969, it suddenly turned out that there was simply no one to run the company. The heirs decided that they did not want to deal with this business and the company passed into the hands of the Amtel concern, for which books were only one of the directions and far from the most important.
Incomes began to gradually fall, which is why in 1971 the owners accepted literally the very first offer to sell such a non-core asset. The new owner of Barnes & Noble was businessman Leonard Rigio, who paid a small sum of 750 thousand dollars for it.
The bookstore has a good owner again. Riggio had worked in the book business for over 10 years at that time, first as a salesman in a university store, and then as an independent salesperson. He even owned a small chain of stores located in educational institutions. Having become the owner of Barnes & Noble, the new owner immediately set about reorganizing the business. The assortment of the New York store has been dramatically expanded due to a variety of reference books, dictionaries, and household books.
In the 1970s-1980s, the company grew rapidly. Rigio was not afraid to experiment. He created new forms of selling his products, invented new ways of development for business. For example, in 1974, a bookstore became the first in the country to start advertising on television. And in 1975, the company announced a 40% discount on all of The New York Times bestsellers. This allowed to attract many customers to the store.
Riggio even opened a special warehouse store where he could buy books at a big discount. Sometimes you could even find bestsellers and novelties there at a price of 10-40% of the nominal. To make it convenient for buyers to navigate in a large room, it was divided into thematic sections. The wide aisles allowed the use of trolleys like those used in supermarkets. This form of trading has become very popular. In addition, fiction, gift literature, and art books also appeared in the store's assortment then.
The company also expanded through numerous acquisitions, acquiring small book chains in different cities of the country. At first, these were just outlets located on campuses. Now this business exists separately under the name Barnes & Noble College Booksellers with 600 stores in the United States and Canada. Then the company began to buy traditional stores, making them into discounters in its own image. In 1985, Barnes & Noble spent $ 300 million to acquire the second largest book chain in America, B. Dalton Bookseller. She owned 800 retail outlets in large stores and department stores.
Now is the time to experiment with the format of outlets. Small shops from Barnes & Noble began to gradually disappear, and instead appeared progressive, as it seemed, book supermarkets. These establishments were very different from both the regular stores and the discount warehouse that brought the company's success in the 70s. Stores from Barnes & Noble were so huge that they could have up to 150 thousand book titles. Often the product was offered at a discount that sometimes reached 40%.
But the most important thing in such stores was that it was really convenient for visitors in them, a long pastime was stimulated. Special play areas were created for children, adults could have a snack and a cup of coffee in a cafe. Visitors were invited to relax in small and cozy reading rooms, while armchairs and soft benches were located in the aisles. From time to time, store managers arranged meetings with authors, poetry evenings, puppet shows, in every way attracting visitors.
In 1993, the company went public with its shares, which gave it funds for further development. Leonardo Riggio himself had 33% of the shares, the same amount belonged to the Dutch investors Vendex, who, back in 1971, took part in the acquisition of the book brand. The active expansion of Barnes & Noble led to a remake of the entire American book market. Small shops, owned by independent entrepreneurs, suffered most from the giant. The market share of their sales fell sharply. Other bookselling companies started to open similar supermarkets themselves, but only started doing so in the 1990s, hopelessly behind.
And the problems did not come from old and familiar competitors at all. In 1995, Amazon was born, which began to offer the sale of the same books over the Internet. In 1997, its sales were already $ 150 million, everyone started talking about the fact that traditional book selling would soon die under the pressure of online sales. But Barnes & Noble responded quite quickly. So in early 1997, a trade agreement was concluded with America Online, which gave the bookseller the exclusive right to sell books to 8 million users of the service.
And in March of the same year, the site barnesandnoble.com appeared. True, this resource did not develop for a long time, which was the reason for justified criticism. Observers noted that the company is openly afraid that online sales could bring down its core business. As a result, the site was not advertised, resources were not invested in it. But in those years there was an Internet boom! As a result, by mid-1999, Barnes & Noble's market capitalization was three times lower than Amazon, although the company owned 15% of the entire US book market. Investors were interested in other numbers - on the Internet, 75% of all books were sold by Amazon.
At that moment, Riggio got nervous - in the company's bookstores, videos, gifts, games, music began to be sold. So the company tried to catch up with Amazon. In 1999-2000, more than $ 400 million was invested to purchase video game stores. The management wanted to attract teenagers to their establishments. The company began to enlarge even more, closing small, albeit profitable, points from B. Dalton. And in 2001, the virtual economy collapsed, burying the predictions of skeptics about the imminent transition of everything and everything online.
In 2002, Leonardo Riggio's younger brother, Stefan, became the new CEO. This reshuffle only strengthened the management team, because the new head of the company turned out to be much softer and more diplomatic than his predecessor. And in the first half of the 2000s, hypermarket chains Wal-Mart, Costco and others began to penetrate the American book market. It was already more dangerous than a virtual Amazon. Supermarkets offered bestsellers with discounts, which was frustrating. Barnes & Noble has chosen several ways to fight. She made her stores even more comfortable, Starbuck coffee shops came to them.
To keep up with the price struggle, the company revamped its loyalty program. And the site began to play a much more prominent role in business. Although it gives no more than 10% of sales, it perfectly fulfills the role of an online catalog. The company is cutting costs by focusing on large stores. And its own publishing activity does not stop, even if it brings in only 5% of income. Barnes & Noble is trying to improve its own competitiveness by turning stores into cultural centers. The competitors simply do not have all this, although the books are a little cheaper there.
Recently, the company has entered the race to create e-books. Her devices were distinguished by low price and high quality. It was assumed that users would use such electronic readers to buy books from the company's online store.
And again they started talking about the decline of traditional books. But the head of the company himself does not see any reason for panic, the more steadily growing sales of illustrated children's publications. Today the company's turnover exceeds $ 5 billion, and more than 40 thousand people work for it.