Retail

Weak Holiday Sales Force Barnes & Noble To Reduce Staff

Barnes & Noble

After weak holiday sales, Barnes & Noble has laid off an unspecified number of experienced workers, such as lead cashiers and digital leads. The news came to many workers as they arrived for work on Monday (Feb. 12), sources familiar with the matter told CNBC.

Despite generally strong consumer spending during the 2017 holiday season, sales at Barnes & Noble fell more than 6 percent from 2016 to 2017 — ending the decline at $953 million. Same-store sales dropped 6.4 percent, and eCommerce sales slid 4.5 percent over that period. These sales declines led to the layoffs, according to the company.

“[Barnes & Noble] has been reviewing all aspects of the business, including our labor model,” a spokeswoman told CNBC. “Given our sales decline this holiday, we’re adjusting staffing so that it meets the needs of our existing business and our customers. As the business improves, we’ll adjust accordingly.”

Barnes & Noble faces competition from Amazon, which holds a large share of the market for books. In addition, Walmart is seeking to make a push to sell eBooks and eReaders on its eCommerce website in 2018.

Even after Barnes & Noble spun off its college bookstore chain into a separate company called Barnes & Noble Education and reduced its Nook business, CEO Demos Parneros is confident physical bookstores still have a place in the bookselling market. Despite declining sales, Amazon is opening up brick-and-mortar bookstores, after all.

“Amazon’s opening physical bookstores: That’s a bit of a validation that it’s a good business to be in; the independents who are neighborhood favorites: That’s another sign that people do want places to go buy books, to learn, to explore,” Parneros said. Compared to Amazon’s stores, however, Barnes & Noble has more for shoppers to explore than an “edited, curated place.”

Still, to help bring its sales back up and change direction, Barnes & Noble is making small changes to its locations — by expanding its in-store café service and changing store layouts, for example.

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