No one walks into a Barnes and Noble store thinking they will walk out with a selection that costs less than it would online, at a discount retailer, or at a secondhand bookstore.
Although some items in the store may be discounted, that is an exception rather than a rule.
However, customers continue to gather at Barnes and Noble, seeking the experience they have come to know and to expect.
The convenience of store locations and the certainty of finding suitable items to purchase are enduring features that are cherished by those who love the connections Barnes and Noble has made with its customer base.
Why Is Barnes and Noble So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)
1. Brick-And-Mortar Structures In Desirable Locations
In all real estate, the most important factors are location, location, and location.
That concept works for successful retailers as well.
For anyone living in a sizeable city, the hunt for a Barnes and Noble store is not going to mean traveling a great distance to an undesirable part of town.
Instead, it is likely that a store is going to be located within easy access.
The retail units, located in or near places where people like to gather for other shopping and entertainment, often incur higher-than-average expenses for the company, which are representative of the commitment Barnes and Noble makes to secure their reputation of providing excellent shopping experiences for their customers.
The care with which Barnes and Noble selects and operates its locations may impact the company’s bottom line more than some other retailers, but the strategy assures that each store will easily become a convenient destination and, as a byproduct, a successful location.
The complications of securing short-term or long-term leases in the midst of a changing economic climate and fickle customer preferences create financial challenges, to be sure.
However, Barnes and Noble has largely mastered the location puzzle, assuring that its stores will become pleasant places where the target customers like to shop because they will not only find what they want, but they will also be able to meet friends for coffee and conversation in the same place where they shop for books and related items.
2. Higher-Than-Average Salaries
It is difficult to provide precise comparisons of salary data, but Zippia reported in April 2021 that Barnes and Noble’s employees earn, on average, $14.26 per hour or $29,661 per year.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics reported in May 2021 that average retail sales positions are paid, on average, $11.35 per hour or $23,601 per year.
The higher compensation reported for Barnes and Noble employees suggests that the company seeks to find and hire employees who will be focused on the expertise and customer service needs that Barnes and Noble aspires to provide.
When consumers are surveyed, it is not uncommon for them to attribute Barnes and Noble’s higher price point for merchandise to the belief that their employees are more attuned to customer needs.
3. Exceptional Customer Service
Along with the expansive selection of merchandise comes a breadth of knowledge required by employees at each store.
Barnes and Noble’s success in this area starts with a natural attraction to would-be employees based on the products sold in the retail stores.
People who like to read enjoy being around other people who share their passion.
In addition, Barnes and Noble offers its employees opportunities to share their reading preferences with the store’s customers through “Staff Picks” and other means.
In order to assure that customer service expectations are met, each store provides an information booth, staffed by experienced employees who are able to provide informed answers to customers about the store’s inventory, as well as specialists throughout the store who work with specific needs, i.e., children’s books or music.
These touches add value to the entire operation and are offered at Barnes and Noble to assure a positive customer experience that will bring buyers back to the store for multiple visits and purchases.
The business model has proven that customers are willing to pay for the excellent service they receive, and the perception that Barnes and Noble is more expensive may be justified by appreciative, satisfied customers.
4. Breadth Of Selection For Books, Magazines, And Newspapers
When someone wishes to find a plethora of books or magazines on a particular subject, it is natural to turn to the vendor that will make that search fruitful.
It would follow that it would not be unusual to expect to pay a premium price for that availability.
At Barnes and Noble, a customer can peruse 5,500 magazine titles.
The options offered by such a large selection most certainly will result in a customer finding what he or she needs or wants.
Additionally, the customer has 1,000,000 book titles available for purchase when both in-stock at the store and in-stock at the warehouse titles are included.
Such an array cannot be found in many other places.
For customers in search of newspapers, 1,500 different publications are part of Barnes and Noble’s inventory.
The ability to make comparisons among multiple selections and authors gives the customer more options.
Additionally, being able to touch and examine books instead of ordering from an online offering provides a superior experience for the discerning customer.
This capability is another one of the reasons Barnes and Noble’s merchandise is considered to be more expensive.
5. Commitment To Both Customers and Authors
In its mission statement for 2021, Barnes and Noble declares that its mission is “to operate the best omni-channel specialty retail business in America, helping both our customers and booksellers reach their aspirations, while being a credit to the communities we serve.”
The company does not intend just to sell books, but rather, to make both bookselling and book buying quality experiences.
Meeting the needs of their reading customers is clearly the goal at Barnes and Noble.
The retailer also chooses to truly connect readers to authors in a way that satisfies the needs of both groups.
The care given to the booksellers as their works are offered to book lovers who want to read them entails efforts that both increase the cost of doing business and raise the cost to consumers who want to own the books they love.
The desired trade-off is happy authors, satisfied customers, and repeat business.
6. Wide-Ranging Categories Of Merchandise
Customers do not enter a Barnes and Noble store simply to purchase a book, although many do just that.
Others know that specialty items are also part of the experience of shopping at the store.
In addition to books, customers will find a wide array of other merchandise either closely or somewhat related to books.
Whether it is an item for oneself or a gift for a loved one, a customer has choices well beyond a simple book.
To name a few, there are journals for all kinds of writers, doodlers, artists, and thinkers.
There is stationery for fancy or cute notes and short or lengthy correspondence.
They have bookmarks that serve to simply mark a page in a book, share a profound quote or thought, add a touch of glamour to a mundane book, or perhaps cause a child to giggle or become enthusiastic about reading a book.
Cards are available for all occasions imaginable, from birthdays to anniversaries to sympathy expressions to “just because” and everything in between.
One can find calendars that hang on a wall or sit on a desk, ones that honor worthy causes, cute animals, exotic places, movie stars, special teams or cartoon characters, ones that inspire us or make us laugh and dream, to those that simply help us remember the dates.
There are also music and movies that offer audio and visual entertainment, toys that reflect the latest book or movie craze or that help children learn to count or to develop amazing skills, stuffed animals and puppets to soothe and entertain kids.
Finally, one can find food and beverages to satisfy hunger and thirst.
Having all these items and more along with books necessitates additional attention to merchandising and staff knowledge, as well as a higher price tag.
7. Appeal To Multiple Customer Bases
Barnes and Noble deliberately makes an effort to appeal to all types of customers.
The store welcomes solo customers looking for the latest bestseller or specific book title, but it also wants families and other groups to make the store a destination for enrichment and entertainment.
The store wants groups to shop for book club selections, to find the funniest, most intriguing, challenging, or inspiring selections.
To create an atmosphere in which all can connect through the love of reading and will feel welcome, Barnes and Noble must stock a sufficient assortment of items to appeal to a variety of ages and interests.
This effort involves attention, focus, and yes, higher prices.
8. Cafés Inside The Stores
What a luxury it is to find the perfect book, then enjoy the experience of reading it along with a cup of coffee and a pastry!
Barnes and Noble understands the value of such an event, so it has included in each of its stores a café that dispenses beverages and delicious food.
To underscore the perceived value of this part of the stores, consider that, according to Barnes and Noble, in one year, the company serves 50.9 million beverages, 10.5 million cookies, 2.1 million cake and cheesecake slices, and 2 million sandwiches and flatbreads.
Imagine that there must be customers who go to Barnes and Noble to eat and not to buy books!
Based on these numbers, one can conclude the wisdom of including cafés in their store models, but it also makes what they sell more expensive.
9. Community Events
The stores make tremendous efforts to support the communities which they serve.
This is an important concept in the stated mission of the company and a pillar of the foundational principles that Barnes and Noble values.
What do these community events look like?
They may be simple events like tables manned by a local charity, such as a literacy council, allowing the organization the opportunity to wrap customer-purchased gifts in exchange for donations to the charity.
Other events might include regular story-time hours for children in the children’s book section, book signings by local authors, or visits by traveling national authors.
During the pandemic, Barnes and Noble shifted to a virtual model for such events has been instrumental in enabling the retailer to offer more options by broadening the array of offerings.
Providing such events connects the store to the community in ways that create value for the patrons.
10. Multiple Platforms For Purchases
The inevitable competition that has arisen from online retailers has impacted income for all brick-and-mortar businesses.
Getting lost business back from the affected segment of customers has resulted in adjustment and innovation within Barnes and Noble’s business model.
Significant efforts to retain market share have been made by offering customers access to online book orders as well as electronic book sales.
Barnes and Noble boasts 4.5 million e-book titles available as well as its own e-reader, Nook.
This arm of the business provides Barnes and Noble with another way to stay competitive.
The company further enhances its ability to remain competitive by enticing customers who participate in its membership program to receive benefits such as discounts and free shipping for online and e-commerce products.
These have been necessary adjustments to the changing landscape of retail.
To offer new technologies to customers in addition to the traditional offerings of physical books has no doubt been a stretch for a traditional bookseller, but doing it successfully speaks volumes about the company’s desire to remain competitive and successful.NEXT: Why Are Condos So Expensive? (Top 10 Reasons)