Back To Books

After a decade of trying to sell lots of items outside of the "books" category, Barnes and Noble has decided to "unclutter" its stores to make room for what it considers to be an excellent opportunity for future revenue growth. For Barnes and Noble shoppers, games and gifts soon will be increasingly hard to find. Simply put, marketers intend to sell more books.

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E-books have largely failed to achieve widespread adoption among consumers. Indeed only a handful of my students purchase e-textbooks, and most observers believe that sales in the difficult-to-measure e-books category are falling. And new CEO Demos Parneros believes that his stores have "too much stuff" in them. Thus, a strategic re-focus on good, old-fashioned books (a sizable sector with flat growth but with far fewer retailers serving it these days) seems like a good idea.

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New stores will be built much smaller than in the past, and some current  locations, at 26,000 square feet, will be remodeled and downsized to half their original size. Gone will be most of the educational toys, games and gift items to make room for a broader array of titles on fewer shelves. This is a major change in strategy, but it's often a good idea to focus on what you do best, especially when revenues aren't what you want them to be. It will be interesting to see what happens.

Discussion: Is this strategic shift a good idea? Why or why not? How can Barnes and Noble compete with Amazon?