B&N Shake-up

Well, it’s not only Borders that is shaking things up at their corporate headquarters.  According to Publishers Weekly, B&N has laid off approximately 100 employees.  What’s troublesome from a reader’s perspective is that it looks like the hardest hit area of the company in this round of “lay-offs” — I agree with one of the comments I’ve seen that what B&N has done is fire these 100 employees — is in their buying group.

From PWB&N wouldn’t confirm the number or names of people let go, but PW has learned that Bob Wietrak, the well-known v-p of merchandising, and Marcella Smith, director of small press and vendor relations, have left the along with a number of buyers, including cookbook buyer Lee Stern. Reports say about 45 to 50 positions in the buying group were eliminated.

What is most disconcerting for publishers, large and small, is there has been no announcement about how the responsibilities these 45 – 50 people once performed will be handled.   It is something that we, as readers, should also worry about.

But the real concern is that this puts publishers in an even more precarious position when it comes to the big chain brick and mortar stores.  Borders is demanding they take on up to a third of the company’s debt or they won’t carry that publisher’s books.  (at least that’s the inference).  Now B&N has laid off a huge portion of its buyers/merchandising officers.etc.  The only good news is that this past year was better for independents than in recent years

Perhaps my prediction that we’ll see more independents surviving and ultimately thriving as they carve out their own niche markets is coming true sooner than I expected.


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One response to “B&N Shake-up

  1. Stephen J. Simmons

    Inescapable truism #1: You can’t be a “bookseller” if you don’t have books to sell.
    Inescapable truism #2: If you don’t have buyers on your staff to go out and *find* the books, then you’re left relying entirely on the books walking in off the street to sell themselves to you.

    This strategy works for the NY Yankees, who have more walk-ons every year at their open tryouts at spring training than they can fit into a single stadium. I don’t see it working quite so well for a bookseller that lacks the NYY franchise prestige … and face it: Amazon is rapidly supplanting all of the traditional brick-n-mortar establishments as the “Yankees” of the bookselling world. Which leads me to …

    Inescapable truism #3: Only the big “traditional” NYC-based publishing Houses have the budget, infrastructure, and *reach* for their books to “walk in off the street and sell themselves”. Indies, small-press houses and other “non-traditional” johnny-come-latelies simply don’t have that same insider access.

    Inescapable truism #4: The gatekeepers at the “traditional” Houses have been driving an increasing number of new and midlist authors into the arms of those “non-traditional” avenues of access — like NRP (not to be a suck-up, or anything …).

    I guess what I’m saying is, this looks to me like B&N’s MBA-possessing, all-widgets-are-interchangeable management genii are trying to stop the bleeding by applying a tourniquet to the neck …

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