Barnes & Noble bringing booze, bocce to Eastchester

By Aleesia Forni

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Customers heading to Barnes & Noble will soon be able to not only get their hands on the latest bestseller, but a beer, too.

On the heels of another fiscal year of losses, the New York-based retailer and nation’s largest bookstore chain announced during an investor presentation that it will open its first “concept store” in Eastchester in October, an initiative aimed at boosting foot traffic to its brick-and-mortar shops and keeping customers in-store longer. These new spaces will also offer patrons something its online-only competitors can’t: full-service restaurants serving beer and wine.

While most of Barnes & Noble’s locations include cafes offering Starbucks drinks, sweets and snacks, these expanded eateries will serve breakfast, lunch and dinner.

“Adding wine and beer is almost kind of essential to rounding out that experience,” said Jaime Carey, the recently appointed president of Barnes and Noble’s development and restaurant group who previously served as the company’s chief operating officer.

The new Eastchester concept store, which will take up residence in the Vernon Hills Shopping Center in a former Borders location, will also feature an expanded offering of books, additional seating, open spaces for store events and an outdoor space complete with a bocce court and fire pit.

While the total footprint of the new stores will be down about 20 to 25 percent compared to  existing ones, dining spaces will account for a greater percentage of in-store real estate and contribute to a larger portion of overall sales, Barnes & Noble officials said.

The Eastchester location will be one of four concept stores nationwide. Other stores will open in the coming year in Edina, Minn., Folsom, Calif. and Loudoun, Va.

In an effort to avoid the fate of the bankrupt bookstore chain that previously resided in the Eastchester space, Carey said these new stores are about strengthening the customer’s in-store experience. “It wasn’t just about making it more transactional,” he said of the new stores’ designs, but more about “making your time in the store more enjoyable.”

The company’s stock price initially rose with the news, up around 8 percent at $11.26 a share following the investor presentation on June 23, before falling back to $10.73 the week after.

Barnes & Noble executives hope these stores will provide a turnaround from the dismal figures the company has posted in recent years. Earlier this month, it reported $30.6 million in losses for the fiscal year ended in April, after recording a $19.4 million loss in the prior year. Fourth quarter sales declined $33 million on dwindling sales in e-commerce and NOOK, its brand of e-retailers, as well as store closures.

But there are some bright spots on the horizon. The chain expects next year’s sales could be flat or increase up to 1 percent, an improvement from the 5.8 percent decline it saw for that metric two years ago.

Other initiatives the company plans to put into place include taking advantage of the booming adult coloring book trend by opening “For the Artist” shops in 200 stores that provide artist supplies, along with offering a wider selection of graphic novels and expanding its membership program.

“It’s about coming and enjoying the space,” Carey said. “That’s really what we’re kind of trying to do here.”

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About the author

Aleesia Forni
Aleesia Forni covers transportation, tourism, nonprofits and residential real estate for the Westchester County Business Journal. She previously worked as a financial reporter for the online newsletter Prospect News. She started with the Westchester County Business Journal in April 2016.

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