Has Barnes & Noble Made a Successful Turnaround in the Digital Age?

Has Barnes & Noble Made a Successful Turnaround in the Digital Age?
Case Code: HROB258
Case Length: 20 Pages
Period: 1995-2022
Pub Date: 2024
Teaching Note: Available
Price: Rs.500
Organization: Barnes & Noble Booksellers, Inc.
Industry: Retailing
Countries: United States
Themes: Turnaround Strategy, Leadership and Change Management, Business Environment,Digital Disruption
Has Barnes & Noble Made a Successful Turnaround in the Digital Age?
Abstract Case Intro 1 Case Intro 2 Excerpts


Amazon Brings in the Digital Age

However, in the 2000s, the digital commerce era commenced and it was Amazon that eventually re-wrote the bookselling business, thereby threatening the existence of big-box retailers such as B&N. Amazon, started in 1995 by Jeff Bezos (Bezos) at a time when purchasing books online was an entirely new concept, started off promoting itself as the “Earth’s Biggest Bookstore”. Amazon’s..

B&N’s Failure to Tackle the Digital Age

B&N completely failed to handle the meteoric rise of Amazon in the bookselling industry. Most analysts agreed that the one area of retail that the dawn of the digital age had particularly disrupted was bookselling. At its peak in 2008, B&N had about 725 locations. But, throughout the 2000s, B&N saw a continuous fall in sales..

DAUNT’S Bookselling MIDAS Touch

Despite its dismal performance over the previous few years, there were some industry observers who thought that there was still much to salvage in the case of B&N. The Reputation Institute’s 2018 US Retail RepTrak Rankings..

DAUNT’S Efforts to Revive B&N

Most analysts opined that Waterstones’ success could not be replicated in the US and B&N couldn’t be made profitable again. On his part, Daunt clarified that he did not intend to remake B&N into a shadow of Waterstones..

DAUNT’S Efforts Pay Off…

Daunt claimed that the restructuring efforts at B&N had paid off with an increase in overall sales, primarily driven by an increase in book sales. B&N announced that sales in 2022 were 3% higher than pre-pandemic levels, with a 14% rise in the sales of books..

Or, Did Industry Trends Work Out In B&N’s Favor?

There was a certain section of analysts who opined that the resurgence of B&N was not completely Daunt’s doing. They observed that post the pandemic, several big-box retailers had experienced an uptick in fortunes and were expanding again after years of shutting down stores – a sign of the industry’s resilience..

The Road Ahead

Though B&N seemed to be out of trouble, Daunt thought that there were several challenges that the company had yet to overcome. First, he wondered if the sales surge due to the pandemic would continue in the future. Michael La Kier, President of a management consultancy in the grocery/CPG space, What Brands Want, LLC..


Exhibit I: Nook Sales (2010-19)
Exhibit II: Revival of Big Box Retailers, As of 2022
Exhibit III: Amazon’s Role in the Bookselling Industry
Exhibit IV: Information on Leading Digital Companies

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