Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) is the largest bookseller in terms of sales revenue in the United States.The company operates 1300+ stores and an online retailer Barnes & Noble.com. Its core business model relies on building local bookstores with comprehensive selection, attractive discounts and membership discount programs, and a community-gathering-place environment (e.g., the inclusion of a Starbucks cafe in each Barnes & Noble store).
Barnes & Noble has been suffering from diminishing margins as sales in the company's retail store struggle. Declining operating margins were mainly caused by higher discounts offered to compete with lower-priced online booksellers, one of the main negative pressures the print industry is facing right now due to a number of negative industry trends. To mitigate the company's slower retail book sales, Barnes & Noble has put a large amount of resources into the developing eBook market. As the demand for portable and low-cost books increases, the market for eBooks and eReaders will grow as well. Barnes & Noble's Nook offers wireless connectivity and access to millions of books. The company does face intense competition in the relatively young market, primarily from Amazon's Kindle 3, which has many of the same features as the Nook. The two companies have been engaged in price wars over the eReaders, something that is risky for Barnes & Noble. The two competitors also face competition from non-exclusive eReaders such as Apple's iPad.
Although the company does not give specific breakdowns of its business segments, it sells products in these general categories:
The electronic book (eBook) revolution has arrived. Electronic readers (eReaders) offer portability and storage, language attributes, low cost for book purchases, access to millions of free books, and a smaller carbon footprint compared to print books among other benefits. As a result, eBook demand has skyrocketed, with revenue in the industry reaching $398 million in 2009 and expected sales to be $2.5 billion by 2013.
Much of the slowdown in the sales revenue of the print retailers may be attributed to the increasing popularity and convenience of online retailers, especially Amazon.com. In fact, Barnes & Nobles expects the physical book market to decrease from $21 billion to $19 billion by 2013. Many online retailers are also a part of the CD and DVD retail segment, where Barnes & Noble has limited its exposure so as not to suffer from lagging sales of CDs due to digital media devices (mp3s), another edge for online retailers. To compete in the e-commerce sphere, Barnes & Noble established its own online retailing website.
The retail book market is slow to change and is at this point closed off from new superstore entrants. Barnes & Nobles looks to use its strong position as the leading U.S. bookseller to capitalize on its contracts with Starbucks for in-store cafes to maintain and grow its market share. Barnes & Nobles competes on two fronts, with other physical retailers and with internet booksellers.
Barnes & Noble competes with other companies who share its model of having massive book superstores with thousands of titles.
Amazon.com is the largest online competition for Barnes & Noble. Formerly partnered with Borders, Amazon offers the convenience of never having to leave your home to buy a book. Additionally, without some of the overhead inherent for B&M stores, Amazon.com can offer low prices or free shipping, leading to further price competition. Amazon also competes with Barnes & Noble's Nook in the eReader market with the Kindle 3.
Wal-Mart and Target are the main retail megastores, which sell everything from books to clothes to groceries. Despite not being a core sales segment of their business, these larger stores have had an impact on the sale of books by making best sellers more widely available. This puts pressure on traditional book retailers like Barnes & Noble to cut prices on bestsellers to retain store traffic, leading to diminished margins.