Barnes & Noble to close 30% of stores over 10 years

A Barnes & Noble store in Bethel Park, Pa., is shown.

In another sign the digital age is taking over publishing, Barnes & Noble plans to thin its stock of stores over the next decade.

The New York-based bookseller’s retail CEO, Mitchell Klipper, told the Wall Street Journal the company plans to shed about 30 percent of its stores over the next 10 years.

Targeted stores were not announced, but representatives from the three Barnes & Noble stores in greater Charleston said Monday they had not been notified of any imminent closings.

One employee said she would be surprised if the bookstores in the area went dark because they are all high-volume shops.

None of the local stores is in imminent danger of closing, corporate spokeswoman Mary Ellen Keating said.

The closings would occur at a rate of about 20 per year, lowering the current 689 stores to between 450 and 500 after a decade. Its 674 college stores are a separate business.

Over the past 10 years, the company closed about 15 stores a year, but it also opened at least 30 each year until 2009.

“Of that number some of the stores are unprofitable while others are relocations to better properties,” Keating said.

She added that the company has not adjusted its store closing plan of about 15 stores per year, but said the reported number of projected closings are in line with analysts expectations.

Barnes & Noble opened two prototype stores last year and plans to test similar stores in 2013, Keating said.

Barnes & Noble’s peak number of stores at any one time was 726 in 2008.

The CEO’s remarks came after its dismal holiday retail sales report earlier this month. Sales plummeted 11 percent compared to the previous year. Even sales of Nook, the company’s electronic reader, missed projections.

Klipper tried to be optimistic with the downsizing announcement.

“It’s a good business model,” he said. “You have to adjust your overhead and get smart with smart systems.

Barnes & Noble’s announcement comes two weeks after Books-a-Million decided to close its West Ashley store off Sam Rittenberg Boulevard. Its last day is Feb. 16.

Reach Warren L. Wise at 937-5524 or twitter.com/warrenlancewise.

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