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Thursday, June 30, 2016
When Barnes & Noble Closes Its Doors
Five years ago I was lamenting the closing of Borders – not just a store, but the entire chain. It was the low-point in the book industry. Combined with the raging Great Recession and the e-book explosion that created uncertainty and left the book publishing industry in a quandary.
The book world sounds healthier today. Bookstore sales are up. Printed book sales are up. Audiobooks are expanding. New indie bookstores are opening and flourishing. But then comes along a piece of bad news I just can’t seem to reconcile.
A large bookstore is closing today in Manhattan and nothing will replace it.
Barnes & Noble is closing its huge corner store with two floors on Third Avenue and East 54th Street, the one that anchored one of the city’s richest neighborhoods, a well-populated area of residents, corporate offices, and retailers.
I don’t know why it went out other than the building it was housed in wants to renovate. But if the store was coming back afterwards, they would’ve said so. If it was temporarily relocating, they would’ve said so. Instead, it had a lame-ass sign on the interior glass wall saying it thanks patrons for coming for 21 years. If it wants to really thank us it would service us and open up a store nearby. It merely instructs us to use the nearest store on 46th Street and Fifth Avenue.
B&N has a golden opportunity to grow with New York City. This place has over 20 million people in any given day, based on commuters from New Jersey, Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Westchester, Long Island, and Rockland County, as well as vacationers, business trip visitors, college students, and 8.4 million residents. Their bookstores should be available to service the curious minds of the masses. With every store closing they concede the marketplace to Amazon.
People can’t go looking for bookstores. No, they need to be there as staples of the community, readily available when you need one and always there to be discovered by wandering souls strolling the streets. Once the store closes, that business is lost and maybe 10% – if that – gets shifted to other stores. The rest just disappears or morphs to Amazon.
Maybe rents are too high and books just can’t compete against higher-priced items in a city that houses some of the world’s richest retailers. Come June 30th when this store closes, I’ll be mourning what was and what could have been.
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