New B&N CEO Talks Amazon, Store Numbers and More

In an q&a with Fortune magazine, Demos Parneros, who became CEO of Barnes & Noble in April, said that Amazon's expansion of its bricks-and-mortar books and electronics stores has reassured him about the future of B&N: "Amazon 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 to buy books, to learn, to explore."

Demos Parneros

At the same time, B&N offers "a completely different shopper experience compared to Amazon," he said. "We have beautiful, large stores--the ability to roam and explore much more than in an edited, curated place. I walked several of the Amazon stores, and they are what they are. But they don't have that richness and years of experience from people who are local and understand that market."

Parneros also disagreed with the notion that even after closing 86 stores in the last seven years, there are still too many B&N locations. He noted that only a small fraction of the company's 634 stores are unprofitable. Instead of considering closing stores, "we are looking at whether they're the right size and [asking] are we in right markets? The good news is that over next five years, 500 leases are up for renewal. That puts the hammer back in our hand. And we can decide what to do with those stores."

Parneros called the five new format stores that B&N has opened in the last six months "our labs. What the five test stores hopefully will do for us is teach us. Did we find our lightning in the bottle for one of them that we can replicate? If we don't, but some pieces are working, we can roll those backwards into the chain."

As for the merchandise mix at B&N, Parneros said, "We need to be innovative about how we sell books, but customers have given us the license to sell gifts and educational toys and other things and we can really seize that opportunity. We've had a very successful model for many, many years. It needs a little bit of refreshing."

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