At a media event at its Union Square store in Manhattan last week, Barnes & Noble unveiled its holiday gift guide and seasonal sales strategy. The push involves two new interactive apps, a new Nook model, unique editions of big books, and a streamlined approach to selling its toys, gifts, and other non-book items.
The big news on the Nook front was the Nook GlowLight 3, which B&N is retailing at $119.99. The screen is the first Nook model to use "enhanced front light technology," the company said, which provides "a cool white light" during the day or in rooms with bright light, but then manually or automatically switches to an “auto night mode” with an orange tone for reading in dark spaces.
Another technological enhancement the retailer rolled out for the season is the introduction of two "Smart Tools," or apps: Book Graph and SmartGift. The former, available only from a desktop computer, is an "interactive discovery tool" which, the company said, displays a "matrix of titles" after shoppers click on a book that interests them. (After clicking on the initial title, consumers will see a number of books related in some way—thematically, for example—pop up to the right of the original choice.) The tool, B&N said, is intended to increase discoverability on BN.com.
SmartGift, the second app, is available on both desktop and mobile. Users can send a gift to a recipient via email, alerting the second party to what they will receive. The recipient can then either accept the gift or exchange it for a gift of a similar price.
Fred Argir, the retailer's chief digital officer, said these apps "emulate the bookstore experience of browsing, discovery and bookseller knowledge." He added that they will "help online shoppers find meaningful, smartly curated gifts."
B&N has also retooled its toys and gifts departments for the season, slimming down on quantity and focusing instead on new lines (including a new exclusive line with Kate Spade and a toy deal with FAO Schwarz).
In toys and games, education—especially STEM-related (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics)—took to the forefront even more than in years past. Entertainment sees a return to nostalgia combined with a love for new tech, with a Crosley turntable (with an inbuilt Bluetooth speaker) sharing shelf space with exclusive editions of classic vinyl including the soundtrack from A Charlie Brown Christmas.
The gift guide itself includes a number of special editions of popular books. B&N's exclusive special editions this fall include the Star Wars Beginning Reader collectible box sets; The Pioneer Woman Cooks: Come and Get It! by Food Network personality Ree Drummond (which includes an additional 16 pages of recipes and photo); Art of Harry Potter, a collection of rare and unpublished works of art that will go on sale on November 21; and Shea Serrano’s Basketball (and Other Things), with "exclusive basketball cards featuring the greatest fictional characters to ever play."
The gift guide itself has been retooled online into curated lists that "reflect the common questions customers ask booksellers in-store," the retailer said, including such topics as “Enchanting Gifts for Harry Potter Fans,” “Gift Ideas for Collectors,” and “Captivating Books for the History Buff.” Barnes & Noble is also pushing a hashtag for the season, #AllIWant.
Finally, B&N is again running its holiday book drive program, in partnership with Instagram brand Hot Dudes Reading. Until January 1, ustomers can come into their local Barnes & Noble and purchase books for donation; the donations will benefit such recipients as Toys for Tots, the Children’s Aid Society, Big Brothers Big Sisters, the YMCA, Salvation Army, and First Book, among others.