Barnes & Noble's new CEO Ron Boire will continue the emphasis of his predecessor, Mike Huseby, on bolstering the selection in B&N stores of toys and other non-book items, the company's fastest-growing categories, Bloomberg reported.
New "do-it-yourself merchandise" includes Gundam anime kits, Raspberry Pi computer kits, art supplies, journals and "even a Benedict Cumberbatch coloring book." B&N is also sponsoring more events that aren't author talks, including coloring-book days (see below) and coding and 3-D printing weekends. (B&N sells a $350 da Vinci Jr. 3-D printer.)
On a tour of B&N's Union Square location in New York City, Bloomberg also noted that the store "doubled its selection of manga comic books from last year and expanded its array of graphic novels and anime figures." In addition, for the holiday this year, B&N has "cut featured titles highlighted in a display at the front of the store by almost half, to 55. Instead, there are more copies of each, and popular books are now presented in several categories. Stacy Schiff's new book on the Salem witch trials, for example, pops up in history, bestsellers and a new section called 'Popular Life Stories.' Overall, the company is promoting more titles than in past years."
As for new titles, Mary Amicucci, B&N's v-p of adult trade and children's books, told the Wall Street Journal, "There may not be one stand-out title yet, but I think the breadth and complexion of this holiday's new titles is better than in 2014."
And for the second year in a row, B&N is offering signed editions of more than 500,000 books by 120 authors, which the Journal called "a popular and successful promotion last year."
Looking to capitalize on the adult coloring book craze, B&N stores will stage the All-American Art Unwind this Saturday, November 14, inviting customers to "Create," "Connect" and "Color." The focus of the promotion is the opportunity to color a piece of art designed by artist Millie Marotta, creator of bestselling Animal Kingdom and Tropical World coloring books.
Adweek noted that B&N has "one obvious advantage" over Amazon, "and that's spacious, comfortable stores--647 of them at last count--stores that the chain has gotten extremely good at turning into event spaces, most often for book signings with bestselling authors or celebrities hawking their latest tell-all tomes.... Barnes & Noble's upcoming event also demonstrates that experiential marketing--to use the trade parlance--is becoming an increasingly important way for all brands to stand out amid the numbing sameness of the retail transaction."
Meghan Labot, managing director of Spring Design Partners, observed that like many retailers, B&N "likely recognizes that sales are tied to people walking through the door and staying for a while. It's a logical solution and one that clearly the online retail cannot replicate.... It would be wise for Barnes & Noble to think about how they can truly re-image their brand experience, beyond adding a coffee shop or coloring station."