Faced with declining book sales and fewer mall openings, Barnes & Noble is poised to close about a third of its retail stores over the next 10 years, the CEO of the company's retail group tells the Wall Street Journal. The bookseller is likely to close about 20 stores a year in the coming years, lowering the number from 689 to between 450 and 500 (its 674 college stores are a separate business). Over the past decade, the firm has closed 15 stores a year—but also opened at least 30 each year until 2009.
The company, which opened only two stores this fiscal year, has faced a stream of grim news: The latest holiday revenue was down 11% compared to the previous year; meanwhile, book sales at shops open at least a year are down 3.1%. Last year, print book sales fell 9%. But even e-books are struggling at Barnes & Noble, with Nook holiday sales down from a year before. Still, B&N's Mitchell Klipper is optimistic: The stores are still firmly in the black, earning a pre-tax $317 million in fiscal 2012. And hey, people like bookstores: "When you go to Bed Bath & Beyond, you don't sit down on the floor and curl up with your blender and your kid," Klipper says.