business news in context, analysis with attitude

Last week we had a piece about how JPMorgan Chase was banking on the appeal of physical locations and is planning to add 500 branches in the next three years.

This weekend, a similar story - the Chicago Sun Times reports that bookseller Barnes & Noble plans to open 50 new locations around the US this year.  That's almost a 10 percent increase in its bricks-and-mortar fleet;  the company currently operates about 600 stores around the country.

The Sun Times offers some context:

"Online sales from the likes of Amazon, as well as other factors have hurt bookstores and brick-and-mortar shops in general over the years. The number of book shops in the U.S. halved from 12,151 in 1998 to 6,045 in 2019, according to the latest data from the Census Bureau. However, the report said there were still more bookstores than other retail businesses such as department stores, which numbered 3,856.

"But recently, Barnes & Noble has opened many new shops after 15 years of declining numbers. Existing stores are 'enjoying exceptionally strong sales,' according to a company release. 'In 2023, Barnes & Noble opened more new bookstores in a single year than it had in the whole decade from 2009 to 2019,' it said. In November 2023, the company opened 10 stores across the U.S. in that month alone."

KC's View:

I am struck by one comment from a Barnes & Noble spokesperson:

“Every community, we think, needs a bookstore."

I agree with that.  I also think it is notable - and to me, heartening - that we're seeing a resurgence in bookstores, which means greater availability of books and a greater consciousness about the importance of reading, at a time when there are calls in some communities to ban certain books.

Barnes & Noble, to its credit, has been highly specific of what side it is taking in this battle, even featuring displays of banned books in some communities.

Literacy is critical to living a rich life.  There's a lesson here for food retailers, I think, because literacy in the kitchen - the ability to make a variety of meals, to feed oneself and one's family in creative and responsible ways - also is critical to living a rich life.  That's a message that food retailers should be sending every day.