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Friday, September 9, 2011

"Barnes and Not So Noble" by Katalina Leon

The Borders bookstore in our county is gone and we have to deal with that reality, but now something has gone awry with the marketing department at Barnes and Noble…

In the middle of last month, during what I think of as the dog days of August, the peak of summer reading, when we all want to collapse in a cool corner with a good book—our local Barnes and Noble bookstore decided to completely gut their romance department.

Barnes and Noble did a lot of other uncalled for things in their store that bode ill for future business, but I’ll stick to the romance section because it hits close to home.

First of all, I couldn’t find it. The romance section had been moved to a dark corner at the every end of a large, two-story store with escalators running up and down the middle. Not only was the romance section sparsely stocked—it was less than half its previous size. Many popular publishers, including the one I write for were conspicuously missing. Not a single title from their press was represented on the shelves. Management told me many popular imprints were not being stocked. What’s going on?

I thought romance accounted for a huge percentage of book sales? Has this changed? Not only had the romance section been greatly diminished it was being hobbled as well. Many of the books were stacked on shelves five and six layers high. I could barely see the full titles of books on the top shelf and reaching up to them was out of the question. I’m a tiny person. My fingertips could tap the top shelf, but I couldn’t reach the books. In general the female population is smaller than the males but guess what? No ladder in this section—none.

However there was an anchored ladder in the men’s sport section. It was thoughtfully placed there so naturally tall guys could safely reach the books they wanted… What’s up with that? Do they expect the women to climb the shelves like lemurs?

I politely brought this problem to management’s attention and they said it was a Barnes and Noble “corporate decision” to place the smallest paperback novels up very, very high where only basketball players could reach them. One manager promised to place a ladder in the romance section. I went back a week later, no surprises—no ladder. That day I saw a woman in high heels trying to bat a romance novel off the top shelf with the sleeve of her sweater. She was very motivated, hopping up and down and in danger of twisting an ankle, but at least she was trying to get a book. I don’t know if she got the book she wanted or if she simply settled for the first book she knocked off the shelf…

The treatment Barnes and Noble has shown its female customers is thoughtless to say the least, and bad business on top of it all. I’m almost inclined to believe Barnes and Noble wants their romance reading customers to go away. Placing product out of reach is a crumby and insulting business model. It’s a ridiculous and extremely alienating “corporate decision” to inflict on customers, especially us vertically challenged gals who have to go searching for tall people in the store willing to hand us our copy of “My Secret Blood Oath Sweet Savage Barbarian Rebel Prince Werewolf”.

I don’t want a stranger reading that title aloud to me in the store and leering at the cover—I really don’t.

Shame on you Barnes and Noble, I left the store empty handed because I got tired of asking for assistance every time I wanted to glance at a book.

Did the Barnes and Noble bookstore near you monkey around with the romance section?

Photo: SuperStock_1589-67769


Janice said...

This is a disservice to not only the female customers that not only read romance, but read more than men and buy more books than average than men.

Now, with our bad economy and books stores closing left and right, is not the time to alienate any potential customers.

Tina Donahue said...

The people running B&N sound like idiots. Or close cousins to those clowns on Wall Street.

Romance IS a HUGE part of why the publishing industry is still in existence, especially in this economy.

If B&N keeps this up, they could go the way of Borders.

It's pretty dumb to ignore more than half your customers since women do read more than men. And what surveys show they read is romance.

Amber Skyze said...

I haven't visited the inside of a book store in a long time. I sure hope they don't mess with the romance section. I love to cruise the shelves for new authors.

Liz said...

hey, how did YOU know I was reading "My Secret Blood Oath Sweet Savage Barbarian Rebel Prince Werewolf”?
I have not darkened the door of a B&N in so long--I always sought out Borders out of respect for a "home town company." We are bereft and still mourning the loss here in ann arbor!

Katalina Leon said...

Hello Janice, I couldn't agree more! When things are bad, why make business worse? I makes no sense to me.
Maybe you're right Tina. Unlike Wall Street, Barnes and Noble certainly won't get a bail-out... Why smash their one golden egg in a bad economy? I can't figure out this thoughtlessness?
Amber, if you shop Barnes and Noble the new corporate redesign might post a challenge to you if you're under 6'. Be sure to bring your own folding step ladder, or one of those mobile cranes the electric company uses to reach the top of utility poles when you go shopping! lol

Maria said...

Seriously! This is why I do most of my book shopping online because the physical bookstores treat us women and "romance" books as if we are some sort of "Pariah". The last time I went into B&N to find a book, I had to actually locate an employee to locate where they had moved the romance section and then to find the book because they didn't have them sorted into any kind of system that made sense. I realize some of the covers might be embarrassing for children to see but really...the back corner and in no order??? since romance books account for anywhere from 40-50% of book sales overall, you would think they would at least treat it's readers as if they mattered - since they don't mind taking our money. It's this attitude that helped close Borders - when it was no longer fun to go to their store...I no longer shopped with them at all.....

Katalina Leon said...

Hi Liz! I couldn't even reach my copy of "My Secret Blood Oath Sweet Savage Barbarian Rebel Prince Werewolf" was it a good read? lol
Maria, I don't know what's going at the big B&N. Are romance book covers truly so lurid that the innocent public has to be protected from sinewy men in kilts and smoldering babes in tight pants brandishing daggers? come on!

Paris said...

I'm vertically challenged also and what B & N is doing is both demeaning and aggravating. Browsing bookstores used to be a pleasure and now I find myself buying more romance books online. Less need to visit the chiropractor but I do miss it!

Katalina Leon said...

Hello Paris! I usually enjoy a good tease but B&N has taken all the fun out of book shopping for pleasure. I love picking up books and reading the back blurbs. If a book cover has beautiful embossing, or clever peek-a-boo cut-outs all the better.
I hate to think what I'm missing! lol

Missy Jane said...

I'm 5'2" and yes, my B&N moved all the romance to two narrow aisles hidden behind Mystery. However, I'm not at all embarrassed to ask someone in a loud voice where I can find a copy of Clitoral Truth or Kama Sutra for Dummies. Hmm, maybe that's why my teens don't book shop with me? ;-P

Katalina Leon said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Katalina Leon said...

Missy will you come shopping with me? Please! lol

R. Ann Siracusa said...

Not a very encouraging sign, but I believe romance readers are dedicated. They will look for and find the books, which doesn't excuse B&N for reader-unfriendly policies.

Katalina Leon said...

Ann I think the current management at B&N is climbing DOWN the ladder of success. I'll just wait for a step ladder in the romance section and saner heads to prevail.

Rebecca Gillan said...

I do most of my romance shopping at my local grocery store because they have a fantastic selection that's laid out in a way that encourages the shopper to browse. I, too, miss the old Borders. There are still a couple in the Metro Denver area, but all of them are too far away to bother with when King Soopers is on my way home from work.

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