Tuesday, March 12, 2013

What does B&N news mean for College Town?

Posted by on Tue, Mar 12, 2013 at 11:59 AM

Sometimes I hesitate posting something because I worry I might be creating news. In this case, though, I think other people would’ve gotten around to asking the same question sooner or later. And that is: Should we worry about the planned College Town Barnes & Noble store, in light of the news that B&N plans to downsize its bricks-and-mortar operations?

Barnes & Noble is supposed to be an anchor of the $100 million College Town mixed-use project on Mount Hope. It will also be the official campus bookstore for the University of Rochester. B&N operates approximately 700 campus bookstores across the country.

The Wall Street Journal reported recently that B&N plans “to close as many as a third of its retail stores over the next decade.” And it doesn’t take a keen observational eye to see that bookstores, in general, are struggling.

Dan Hurley, president of the Upper Mount Hope Neighborhood Association, says College Town’s developer has assured UMHNA that B&N is committed to the project.

And Mary Ellen Keating, a spokesperson for B&N, says the WSJ story is misleading and sent the following statement:

“Barnes & Noble has not adjusted its store closing plan whatsoever. The Wall Street Journal article implies that our rate of store closures has changed. We have historically closed approximately 15 stores per year for the past 10 years. Of that number some of the stores are unprofitable while others are relocations to better properties. The numbers reported…by the Wall Street Journal are consistent with analysts’ expectations. It should be noted that in 2012, Barnes & Noble opened two new prototype stores and in 2013 plans to test several other prototypes, as well. Barnes & Noble has great real estate in prime locations and the company’s management is fully committed to the retail concept for the long term.”

Point taken. But the statement doesn't negate one of the article's main assertions: that while these closings are taking place, new store openings have all but dried up. So B&N is, in fact, downsizing in a way. And I think that's still important for the College Town B&N discussion.

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