Barnes & Noble looks to boost sales with revamped website

The bookseller's Q4 and fiscal 2015 sales dropped more than 10 percent as demand for its Nook tablets continued to fall.


Retail bookseller Barnes & Noble is hoping that a scheduled website redesign will help bolster the struggling chain's omnichannel efforts, as sales of its Nook e-reader continue to slip.

During a post-earnings report conference call Thursday, Barnes & Noble CEO Michael Huesby said the company's customer engagement focus is shifting beyond brick-and-mortar and toward e-commerce.

"I am pleased to announce that we are launching our improved website next week, which has better search capabilities and improved user experience, and is expected to increase sales and yield cost savings," Huesby said. "We expect the website to be a valuable resource for customers, whether they choose to have their orders shipped to home, or made available for in-store pickup."

The contrast between physical Barnes & Noble bookstores, which were just treated to a year-long merchandising effort, and the digital storefront is certainly stark. While the company's brick-and-mortar locations feature cozy accouterments and wafts of coffee and paperbacks, the website is dated, clunky and uninviting.

The company doesn't break out e-commerce sales, they're instead lumped in with sales from the physical bookstores, but given the redesign and website's current form, it's unlikely digital did much to move the needle.

But as for the numbers, Barnes & Noble said its retail segment had revenues of $869 million for the quarter and $4.1 billion for the full year, a drop of 9 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively, while comparable store sales declined 1.3 percent.

Sales for the quarter decreased 10.4 percent to $1.18 billion from $1.32 billion in the same quarter last year.

Barnes & Noble expects to separate the Barnes & Noble Inc. and Barnes & Noble Education businesses by the end of August, which the company said would allow each business to independently focus on growth. Nook is slated to join the retail business, which Huesby said will "streamline and consolidate systems and processes" that are common to and Nook.

"Combining Nook with our retail business will give us all of these benefits, and most importantly, the ability to provide Barnes & Noble customers any book, anytime, anywhere, in any format that they choose," Huesby said.

Including digital content, devices and accessories, Nook revenue reached $52 million for the quarter and $264 million for the full year, a drop of nearly 40 percent for the quarter and 47 percent for the year.

While still significant, Nook losses narrowed sharply from previous years, which the company credits in part to its partnership with Samsung to produce Nook co-branded devices. The shift away from hardware and toward content also helped the Nook sales mix, the company said.