Barnes & Noble has named Demos Parneros its new CEO, replacing Len Riggio who has held that position on an interim basis since Ron Boire was dismissed last August, after less than one year on the job.
Parneros joined B&N last November when he was named chief operating officer. Riggio praised Parneros in a March conference call with analysts discussing third quarter results. While saying he was enjoying his time as CEO, Riggio added that he thought Parneros was doing a great and should be considered a top candidate to be the new CEO.
In a prepared statement, Riggio said: “It has become abundantly clear over the last five months that Demos is a perfect fit for our company and an outstanding choice for Chief Executive Officer. I believe Demos is fully prepared to help foster a new era of growth for Barnes & Noble.” While stepping down as CEO, Riggio will remain B&N chairman.
Parneros is a 30-year retail veteran. He was president of North American stores and online for Staples before arriving at B&N. While at Staples, Parneros was involved in all aspects of the chain’s operations, including human resources, merchandising, e-commerce, marketing and real estate.
B&N had a disappointing fiscal third quarter which ended January 28, 2017. Sales in the period fell 8.0% from the third quarter of fiscal 2016, and EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) fell to $157.8 million, from $169 million in the same period last year.
The weaker than expected results led the company to scale back projections for EBITDA for 2017 to the $180 million–$190 million range, and increase the projected decline in comparable store sales from 6% to 7%.
The disappointing third quarter results prompted Riggio to acknowledge that the company has not yet found a "magic bullet" to stop the sales slide. Riggio said, at the time, that B&N has had success with some new lines like educational games and is experimenting with different in-store boutiques.
In an interview with PW, Parneros said there is "no doubt" that reversing recent sales trends is his top priority. The biggest problem for B&N, and many other retailers, is that customer traffic has been falling, Parneros said. The B&N group will focus on ways to bring people back to stores, he said. Parneros views B&N's selection of educational toys and games and gifts as could complementary products that can be used to help bring more people into B&N outlets.
Parneros views the three new concepts stores as excellent learning platforms that the retailer can use to see what areas maybe able to be used in other stores. Two additional concept stores are due to be opened soon.
Parneros said he will continue B&N's omnichannel approach to bookselling, but suggested that could undergo some changes. "Differrent retailers have different definitions of what omnichannel means," he said. But B&N will remain committed to offering its customers e-books through the Nook. "Selling e-books Is an important part of the end-to-end value proposition that we offer customers," he said.
Parneros acknowledged that some existing stores have aged and maybe too large for today's bookselling environment. With about 100 leases per year coming up for renewal over the next few years, that gives B&N choices on what it wants to do with its brick-and-mortar portfolio, he said.