2016/06/30

Barnes And Noble's Food Push Marks Retail Quest For Internet-Proof Businesses

Barnes & Noble is finding a new way to offer shoppers a little brain food — quite literally, this time.

Come 2017, the nation’s last remaining national bookstore chain plans to open four concepts stores that include bars and better food in cafes that will be double the size of what’s seen in stores now, it told investors last week.

It’s the latest example of a retailer testing new food concepts to revive weak store traffic and give consumers, in the era of online shopping, a reason to linger, and in theory, spend more.

The move comes as malls and retailers from Macy’s to Urban Outfitters URBN +3.04% seek to cushion their store fleets from the encroachment of e-commerce by sprinkling in Internet-proof businesses, be they new eating concepts or services like gyms and urgent-care centers.
A pedestrian walks past a Barnes & Noble Inc. store at Union Square in the Manhattan borough of New York, U.S. Photographer: Yana Paskova/Bloomberg

It appears that Barnes & Noble, which has benefited from slowing sales of e-readers, is now serious about the food business: The chain just promoted its chief operating officer Jaime Carey to president of development and head of the newly created restaurant group. Carey has spearheaded the retailer’s expansion into non-book categories like toys, games and gifts, which have been taking up more space in its 640 stores.
The café-enhanced concept stores add to the list of unexpected retailers piggybacking on the foodie trend. Indeed, forget that designer bag — social-media posts of cool restaurant meals have become the new status symbol these days, particularly among Millennials.
And retailers of all stripes have caught on. Fashion retailer Urban Outfitters, for one, has partnered with celebrity chefs such as Lola’s Michael Symon and Marc Vetri, founder of Vetri and Osteria, to open restaurants within its stores.

For its part, Barnes & Noble has hired an executive chef to whip up its “better-food experience,” where a café will offer breakfast, lunch, dinner and waiter service, Carey told Fortune. The concept stores will open in Eastchester, NY this October, and next year, in Edina Galleria in Edina, MN, at the Palladio in Folsom, CA CA +0.09%, and at One Loudon in Loudon, VA.
“Jaime’s promotion underscores the importance of having a leader devoted to our new store concepts with a focus on an enhanced restaurant experience,” Ron Boire, chief executive officer of Barnes & Noble, said in a statement.
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