After falling 5% in 2008, total sales from the nation’s three largest booksellers fell 6.9% in the year ended January 31, 2010. According to PW’s annual ranking of chain sales, revenue from Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Books-A-Million fell to just under $8.3 billion last year, a figure that is 12% below sales of $9.4 billion in 2007, a year likely to be the high-water mark for bookstore chain sales. The decline was due to the deadly combination of a drop in same-store sales and store closures.
The major chains closed 270 outlets in 2009, most of which were in malls. Barnes & Noble finished the shutdown of the B. Dalton mall chain, closing 48 stores and converting the remaining four to Barnes & Noble stores by the beginning of February. Borders accelerated the closing of the mall stores in its Walden Specialty Retail group, shutting 211 outlets by the year ended January 30. Books-A-Million was the only chain to finish the year with more stores than it started with, operating 223 stores at the end of January. BAM executives have said they expect to be more aggressive in opening stores this year and have already opened BAM’s first locations in Pennsylvania. B&N executives have indicated they are adopting a cautious approach to store expansion this year. Borders is expected to continue to close Walden outlets, but said it has no plans to drastically reduce the number of superstores it operates. In the current year, leases at 25 superstores expire, while the leases are up at 102 Walden outlets.
Borders executives said they may tinker with the chain’s product mix; last year Borders continued to reduce the space devoted to video and music, which led to significant declines in sales in both segments. The chain said it may add more nonbook items in the future, and cited the success it is having with its Paperchase gift and stationery offerings. And although Borders put a new focus on books in 2009, book sales fell 13.4%, to $1.89 billion, although its share of sales held steady at 67%.
Sales for Barnes & Noble in 2009 include sales from trade stores only and exclude revenue from Barnes & Noble College Booksellers, which B&N bought in September; including college sales from the date of acquisition, sales were $5.96 billion, up 9% over 2008. B&N has also changed its fiscal year to one closing at the end of April.