Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Barnes and not so Noble...

The Borders bookstore in our county is gone and we have to deal with that reality, but now something has gone awry with the marketing department at Barnes and Noble…

In the middle of last month, during what I think of as the dog days of August, the peak of summer reading, when we all want to collapse in a cool corner with a good book, our local Barnes and Noble bookstore decided to completely gut their romance department.

Barnes and Noble did a lot of other uncalled for things in their store that bode ill for future business, but I’ll stick to the romance section because it hits close to home.

First of all, I couldn’t find it. The romance section had been moved into a dark corner at the every end of a large, two-story store with escalators running up and down the middle of it. Not only was the romance section sparsely stocked—it was less than half its previous size. Many popular publishers, including the one I write for were conspicuously missing. Not a single title from their press was represented on the shelves. Management told me many popular imprints were not being stocked. What’s going on?

I thought romance accounted for a huge percentage of book sales? Has this changed? Not only had the romance section been greatly diminished it was being hobbled as well. Many of the books were stacked on shelves five and six layers high. I could barely see the full titles of books on the top shelf and reaching up to them was out of the question. I’m a tiny person. My fingertips could tap the top shelf, but I couldn’t reach the books. In general the female population is smaller than the males but guess what? No ladder in this section—none.

There was an anchored ladder in the men’s sport section. It was thoughtfully placed there so naturally tall guys could safely reach the books they wanted… What’s up with that? Do they expect the women to climb the shelves like lemurs?

I politely brought this problem to management’s attention and they said it was a Barnes and Noble “corporate decision” to place the smallest paperback novels up very, very high where only basketball players could reach them. One manager promised to place a ladder in the romance section. I went back a week later, no surprises—no ladder.  That day I saw a woman in high heels trying to bat a romance novel off the top shelf with the sleeve of her sweater. She was very motivated, hopping up and down and in danger of twisting an ankle, but at least she was trying to get a book. I don’t know if she got the book she wanted or if she simply settled for the first book she knocked off the shelf…

The treatment Barnes and Noble has shown its female customers is thoughtless to say the least, and bad business on top of it all. I’m almost inclined to believe Barnes and Noble wants their romance reading customers to go away. Placing product out of reach is a crumby and insulting business model. It’s a ridiculous and extremely alienating “corporate decision” to inflict on customers. Especially us vertically challenged gals who have to go searching for tall people in the store willing to hand us our “My Secret Blood Oath Sweet Savage Barbarian Rebel Prince Werewolf”. 

I don’t want a stranger reading that title aloud to me in the store and leering at the cover—I really don’t.

Shame on you Barnes and Noble, I left the store empty handed because I got tired of asking for assistance every time I wanted to glance at a book.

Did the Barnes and Noble bookstore near you monkey around with the romance section?



  1. It's an embarrassing but true story. I got tired of having the book titles read aloud to me by tall people, as if I were a child...
    I just gave up. Hopefully Barnes and Noble will get the ladies a ladder.
    XXOO Kat

  2. Wow. I haven't shopped in Barnes and Noble in some time. I ordered a book for my daughter for her summer reading, but only went to the register, paid for it and left.
    I'm not very tall either, so this would annoy me to no end. I like to surf the shelves for new authors. If my local store did this I'd stop going too. Such a shame.


  3. The hardback, newly released romance novels in their glossy jackets are within easy reach but the paperback romance novels are in alphabetical order by author starting near the ceiling... with no ladder on this side of the store. Its so poorly thought out. Apparently a corporate manager has done this re-design to multiple stores. If your local Barnes and Noble has gone this extreme, please say something to management.
    XXOO Kat

  4. Barnes and Noble is downsizing, putting more emphasis on it's ebook dept. and the Nook.
    Why they'd gut the romance department is a mystery. Romance is one of the genres that still sells. Have they been bought out by that guy who says romance ruins marriage?

  5. Julia, now I am wondering if it was the guy who gripes that romance novels fill women's heads with nonsense-maybe he is the one who set the books on the top shelf and took the ladder away? What a nasty man. I'm going to steal his painting ladder and take it to the bookstore. lol
    XXOO Kat

  6. There are 2 B&N stores near me. The one I go to regularly started downsizing the romance section well over a year ago. The 'new releases' encompass only a few authors, mostly hardcover, are displayed 8" apart on the shelf, and remain there for months! The rest of the romance books are relegated to one set of shelves.
    At the other store, which is a two story maze, finding the romance books involves using a GPS, because finding an employee to help is impossible!!!

  7. I used to love Barnes and Noble. To my eyes someone incompetent is at the helm. This new floor plan guarantees a drop in sales.
    XXOO Kat


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