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Take a Walk on the Wild Side

After watching Cersei's GOT walk of shame on Sunday, I got to thinking: Wouldn't it be nice if LJ had its own rebirth of sorts, and returned to exploring productive ideas on how Barnes & Noble might rebound in the current business climate? Way back when I started posting here, I made the following predictions on how BN might stay viable:

1. Comfy chairs & couches, making the bookstore a destination to relax, read, and have coffee.
2. Expanded Cafe service, including a better menu, and wine bars at certain locations.
3. Smaller on-site book selections, focused on fast-moving titles.
4. In-house POD machines, allowing immediate printing - rather than ordering.

Now, who wants to guess why I'm bringing this up again?


Jun. 22nd, 2015 09:25 pm (UTC)
Regardless of our inability to agree on the specific actions Barnes and Noble should take, I think we all can agree something needs to be done.

Here are my suggestions.

1) Make the store destinations again. I agree with previous posters in regards to the "comfy chairs" lack of viability. However, the stores should focus on more community engagement, author events and even open mic nights. We have made progress in this direction with the new stipulation of author events not requiring books to be warehoused for consideration, but there needs to be a clear directive to invest locally through the CBDM position to bring in customers with more frequent event offerings.

2) If the company truly wants to be a sales company, we need to start acting accordingly. Give rips for selling digital products, put tip jars in cafes and invective selling. Keeping one's job is not invective enough. Show me an actual sales company that doesn't use employee promotions and invectives to drive sales. Furthermore, make the incentives legitimate. Remember the "EGC contest" from last fall where there were literally no prizes for stores or individuals? Actions such as these only have a negative effect and appear to only enrich the upper-level management.

3) Have a clear digital strategy. Seriously..where is this product going? I say scrap the booths/boutiques etc and just put one variant each at customer services. It's a payroll/floor space drain and is completely rudderless.

4) Combine new and renewal memberships into one metric. Cheating is entirely too rampant and there is a culture of cheaters being rewarded while the honest stores suffer. A simple 8%+- store goal for memberships would fix this cheating overnight and give a truer idea of each store's capabilities. Also, we need to double-down on what we offer members. Every year it seems we make the program less attractive for customers. Let's load them up with benefits so we can retain their business.

5) Coach MOD effectiveness. Way too many managers sit in the back all day and seem more focused on how little than can do than on how much they can accomplish in a shift. They need to be out, coaching and truly driving sales.

6) Make bargain 1's and 2's automatically clearance. This would save up so much payroll in scanning box after endless box of 1's ans 2's and keep up from warehousing these items in perpetuity.

7) Healthier options in cafe.

8) Close locations earlier. We lose so much money late at night in terms of shrink/payroll etc. No bookstore needs to be open till 11 on a weekday night.

9) Dial in the bundling system for work orders. We put in facilities requests and nothing happens...for months.

I have some more but I'll stop there.

*The above post in my individual opinion and does not reflect the opinions of Barnes and Noble, its affiliates, subsidiaries or partners.
Jun. 23rd, 2015 01:30 am (UTC)
I had the chance to visit some our east coast stores last month, and what's happening in our company is just...amazing. When speaking to our tech-guys - the folks responsible for integrating the Espresso machines with a network of current websites affiliated with BN - I have to admit I genuinely felt "humbled;" there's far more going on right now than I even imagined, and the first "release" (that is, sign-off of completion) is on track to happen within the next few hours.

I'm pleased that several of you took the time to go through my archives, (Chuckling...that's something even I was too lazy to do). I'm glad you're all having fun, but please don't forget to also dig up my many, many statements on "personal responsibility." My core talking-points have always been consistent, and cherry-picking my posts - though extreeeeemly flattering - will really work a lot better for you, if you strive to be fair & balanced.

And speaking of posters, kudos to the one above me here for your 9 suggestions. No, no-no-no, don't stop with just 9...most of your ideas are right on the money, and corporate needs to hear them. It still pains me to read stories about ineffective MODs, and for what it's worth - in all my travels, and all the stores I've worked in - I rarely find them to be the case in a way that lasts for long. I've always believed that We Listen is a valuable tool for extreme examples, but I also know from experience that most MOD issues are best addressed by realistically/intelligently reaching out to the immediate management structure, starting with a SM - but escalating to the DM/RM if necessary. Like any well-run business, you only face a backlash if you're a tool to begin with.

But going back to my predictions, I challenge everyone not to make statements that are clearly based in fear & anger. I've been angry myself many times - often with the inflammatory idiocy on various anonymous online forums, but even more so with some of BN's hindsight-missteps. Again, all that money wasted with Nook University - UGH. I remember shouting at the BNInside screen last year, when my store was fighting for every payroll dollar as pictures were posted of Len's 8/9/2013 party with Lou Reed. (I have no problem with successful people enjoying the fruits of their labor, but certain things make hardworking booksellers angry - when juggling customers, eplanner, and snooty intranet features). Admittedly, my own attitude has evolved these past few years, but I'm still a bookseller at heart, and I've definitely put in my dues with this company. Granted, those promised Tiffany bookends sure looked sweet, but the glass brick is nice too.

Anyway, thanks to everyone for continuing to respond to my comments from a few months back. Had you not bombarded my email - "Someone has replied to Smithback's post" - I never would have reopened BNLJ, and seen how much I was missed :)

Now, if I may continue to direct this discussion, who out there has first-hand experience with our Espresso tests...or any of my other predictions? Discuss, please. Also, for those of you working hard in our tech departments, what can you share about how everything is tied together? Several (myself included) have mentioned these early machines' immediate shortcomings. What's the plan, Stan? Specifically, how is our current software/systems being set up for dramatic expansion?

Enjoying a glass of wine in a comfy chair, while I wait to hear this :)
Jun. 24th, 2015 08:30 pm (UTC)
Re: the cafe menu -- I give them big kudos for the new sandwiches. The Philly cheesesteak and tomato caprese are surprisingly good. I think the chicken tenders were a miscalculation, though. Parents with young kids should be the ideal target group for this food, but nobody seems to be making the leap when we recommend them on the bookfloor. It doesn't help that there's a Chick-fil-A right across the street; given the choice, I'd go there, too.


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