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Barnes & Noble Booksellers — "The World's Largest Bookstore"


B&N Union Square

Barnes & Noble store on Union Square in Manhattan, NYC

Valerie Peterson

Corporate Office:

Barnes & Noble
122 Fifth Avenue
New York, New York 10011

Phone: 212-633-3300
Fax: 212-675-0413
Retail Website
Corporate Website

Barnes & Noble Booksellers — Overview:

Barnes & Noble, Inc. (NYSE: BKS) — or B&N, as it is often referred to — is a Fortune 500 company. It is the self-proclaimed world’s largest bookseller and the nation’s highest-rated bookselling brand.

The company operates approximately 700 retail bookstores in regional shopping malls, major strip centers and freestanding locations in 50 states, and 636 college bookstores serving more than 4.6 million students and faculty members at colleges and universities across the United States. In addition, a large portion of its book business is conducted online through barnesandnoble.com.

With a long history in books, Barnes & Noble is now a leading content, commerce and technology company that provides customers easy and convenient access to not only books, but magazines, newspapers and other content across its multi-channel distribution platform.

Barnes & Noble's Early History:

Barnes & Noble’s history began in 1965 when Leonard Riggio, then a bookstore clerk and student at NYU, opened his own bookstore, the Student Book Exchange (SBX). He had expanded SBX to a small chain of six college bookstores when, in 1971, he acquired a failing bookstore on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan called Barnes & Noble.

Throughout the 1970s and 1980s, the Riggio made a number of bookselling innovations. In 1974, Barnes & Noble was the first bookseller in America to advertise on television. And, while now book discounting is an expected practice, in 1975 B&N became the first bookseller in America to sell books below publisher’s established list prices by offering New York Times bestsellers at 40% off.

Barnes & Noble expanded on its discounting success by opening a 40,000-square-foot Sale Annex directly across from its flagship store, then opened other, smaller bookstores based on the Sale Annex model. These stores featured remainders in addition to discounted bestsellers.

Around the late 70s, Barnes & Noble began acquiring other booksellers, including college bookstores, Bookmasters and Marboro books. Marboro Books gave Barnes & Noble a foothold in the mail-order book business, which had the added benefit of giving B&N some market research insights into book-buying habits. This prompted Barnes & Noble to respond to customer demand and begin publishing its own books for sale to its growing base of mail-order customers. These titles were primarily “bargain books,” including out-of-print books that were reissued in high quality, affordable editions, which added to B&N’s list of value-priced books.

(Read more about B&N founder, Len Riggio.)

B&N Expansion and the Superstore Era:

Riggio's company continued to expand and he tried different store sizes and formats. The late 1980s was a time of major expansion: in 1987, B&N acquired the nearly 800 stores of the B. Dalton Chain from Dayton Hudson; in 1989, the company acquired BookStop, a Texas chain of superstores. In addition, they acquired the Doubleday Book Shops from the Bertelsmann Company (who had purchased them along with Doubleday, the publishing imprint) and the rights to the Scribner’s bookstore trade name from the publisher Macmillan.

In the early 1990s, the Barnes & Noble adopted and refined its own superstore business, after a wildly popular concept pioneered by Borders. Superstores featured elegant fixtures, areas to lounge and read, cafes that served coffee (B&N serves Starbucks), and a mix of product that included retail music sections.

Barnes & Noble Goes Public... and Goes Online in the 1990s:

Riggio took Barnes & Noble public in 1993. With a long history of selling directly to the consumer, the company experimented early with internet sales -- selling books on CompuServe and America Online prior to launching barnesandnoble.com in May of 1997.

The Barnes & Noble.com website serves as the company’s largest store, enabling customers to order any book, music CDs and DVDs at any time, from anywhere. With more than one million unique titles, BN.com claims the site’s standing inventory is the largest of any bookseller online.

BN.com and the NOOK™ Era:

In the first decade of the Twenty-First Century, as the bookselling and book publishing landscape experienced tectonic shifts, Barnes & Noble fought to keep pace with technology and shifting customer habits. As the growing popularity of e-readers became evident, in July 2009 B&N launched an e-bookstore. In addition to making traditionally-published e-books available, Barnes & Noble launched PubIt! e-book publishing service that gives self-published authors the distribution power of BN.com.

In October 2009 launched its proprietary, Android-based e-reader, The NOOK™, drawing on the strength of the Barnes & Noble Bookseller brand to woo readers to its platform. Since that time it’s launched increasingly devices with increasingly sophisticated capabilities, including the NOOK Color™ (October 2010), the NOOK The Simple Touch™ (May 2011) and the NOOK Tablet™ (November 2011).

The Future of Barnes & Noble:

Twenty-First Century innovations cost money. As retail book sales — and now books themselves — books have become “virtual,” Barnes & Noble has needed by new technologies and competitors, first Amazon.com and then Apple’s iPad.

Beginning in 2009, financier Ron Burkle began mounting a hostile takeover bid for the bookseller; Barnes & Noble instituted a poison pill defense, which was upheld in 2011 by a Delaware court on appeal.

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