February 14, 2018
Barnes & Noble employees show up for their jobs only to learn they now have no jobs
by Stephanie DeLuca
As has been increasingly reported over the last few years, sales at Barnes & Noble are declining and the US’s largest chain bookstore is seemingly in trouble. And the latest batch of news about the company does nothing to dispel that perception: as Lauren Thomas and Lauren Hirsch report at CNBC, B&N has laid off an as yet undisclosed number of employees across the entire company, including lead cashiers, digital leads, and other experienced workers.
According to the report, many workers found out they no longer had jobs only after they’d showed up for work on Monday morning. As Jim Milliot reports at Publishers Weekly, B&N claims the layoffs will save the company $40 million annually. As of its last report in April 2017, Barnes & Noble employed 26,000 people.
The chain is reporting a weak fourth quarter last year, with holiday sales performing well under expectations — according to a PW report, down 6.4% from the previous year, to $953 million. Same-store sales also dropped 6.4% when compared to 2016 and online sales dropped 4.5%. The holiday season is normally one of the busiest times of year; it’s within reason to assume this decline is a major red flag for the book retailer.
A spokesperson for B&N explained the reason for layoffs to Thomas and Hirsch, citing the lack of holiday shopping: “[Barnes & Noble] has been reviewing all aspects of the business, including our labor model. Given our sales decline this holiday, we’re adjusting staffing so that it meets the needs of our existing business and our customers.” In a note of optimism, she concludes, “As the business improves, we’ll adjust accordingly.”
The announcement of layoffs comes on the same day Barnes & Noble announces a shiny new hire: Timothy Mantel, the company’s new chief merchandising officer. Mantel does not come from a book background, but has experience as the CMO for GNC Corporation and a vice president at Target, handling food and household essentials. In their press release, B&N stresses Mantel’s success in fostering Target’s online and store growth. In his new position, Mantel will “be responsible for driving sales and profitability in all areas of merchandising within the Company, including Books, Toys & Games, Gift, Newsstand and Music and Entertainment.”
Here’s hoping Mantel can help to ward off the beast that is Amazon, which only continues to corner the book market and intrude on bookstore profits. And while an executive in a business suit can whip up charts and graphs that may, indeed, prove helpful, there’s no substitute for the basics: walking into bookstores to make purchases in person, and encouraging friends and family and acquaintances and strangers on the street to do the same.
Stephanie DeLuca is the director of publicity at Melville House.