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Barnes & Noble To Open 30 Stores Next Year As Big-Box Retailers Battle Back

In a show of resilience against online competitors and the pandemic, Barnes & Noble plans to increase its overall number of stores next year, indicating big-box brick-and-mortar stores have resurgence potential.


Barnes & Noble plans to open 30 stores next year, The Wall Street Journal reports, though the company still operates about 125 fewer stores than its peak of 726 in 2008.

The book retailer has struggled for about a decade as and other online book sellers became more popular. But it beefed up its online sales and pulled back on some physical merchandise when things started to go digital, something failed competitors like Borders didn’t do. Barnes & Noble also found some success shortly after the pandemic began when people turned to books while stuck at home, and used the time stores were closed to remodel. 

Now, two Boston-area locations that were formerly Amazon Books stores are on the way among the 30 new ones coming, according to the WSJ. Barnes & Noble also plans several much smaller stores than it operated in the past, including a 7K SF store down the street from its former 50K SF store in Manhattan, the article states.

Several other big-box retailers, especially those offering discount merchandise, are opening at least 80 more stores in 2023, including Ross, Burlington and TJX Cos., the parent company of T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, per the WSJ.

Discount retailer Dollar General is also rapidly expanding, with plans to open more than 1,000 stores next year, though the store stays out of big-box territory with an average store size of about 7K SF. 

Growing brands like these likely contributed to more stores opening than closing in the U.S. last year for the first time since 1995, according to Morgan Stanley analysis. The volume of 20K-plus SF retail space leased in 2022 is on track to reach 60M SF, about the same as in 2021, but well below 2019’s 77M SF, the WSJ reported. 

Overall, the amount of new retail construction has slowed significantly since the 2008 financial crisis, leading big-box retailers to be more cautious about where they open stores, partly because they have more data available now. Sales and location tracking can help the retailers pinpoint where locations will be successful and how much space they need, the WSJ reported. 

“A lot of these retailers in the big-box categories are getting much smarter due to technology and information,” Anjee SolankiColliers national director of retail services and practice groups, told the WSJ. “You couldn’t do that before.”

Barnes & Noble will continue to open its classic large bookstores, but also adapt based on what is available and affordable, which will offer different experiences, Daunt said, noting a recently opened store in Riverhead, New York,  that has full-height bookshelves arranged more like an independent bookstore than its traditional big-box stores.