With analysts questioning whether digital bookselling will help or hurt Barnes & Noble (early verdict is hurt since its stock has fallen 7% since introduction of Nook while Amazon’s stock price as soared since release of its blowout third quarter), the nation’s largest bookseller held an investor conference this morning where it made its case for being well positioned to take advantage of its leading spot in traditional bookselling, its growing online sales and its expanding presence in the e-book market.
Executives, led by CEO Steve Riggio, said B&N believes e-books will serve as a catalyst to boost to sales of all books, at least in the near term. The Nook will allow B&N to reach consumers who have never shopped in a B&N store, Riggio said, and the combination of stores and Nook will allow B&N to grab a greater share of the consumer’s wallet, he said. Riggio noted that bookstores will remain the key sales channel for a number of book categories that aren’t sold over e-readers, such as children picture books and illustrated titles. Still, digital sales represent an important growth opportunity for the company, and B&N announced that it will sell Plastic Logic’s forthcoming e-reader, Que, through its stores and on B&N.com when the device is released in January. Que will be sold near displays for the Nook. Earlier this year, B&N said it would serve as the official e-bookstore for Que.
While the recent focus has been on B&N’s digital activities, executives also spoke on the improving performance of B&N.com which, they said, has had double-digit traffic growth and accelerating top line growth. The company’s marketplace sales are increasing and major infrastructure investment is completed.
In its traditional business, B&N noted that despite the attention being given to the current price wars, discount stores and mass merchandisers have long been selling books, and that customers still spend much more money on books in bookstores than in any other store. Mass merchandisers sell only a fraction of the available titles, B&N said, noting that bookselling is a long tail business. Growth opportunities at the stores include the company's recently introduced educational games and toys as well as the entire children's and teen segment.