business news in context, analysis with attitude

In Minnesota, the Star Tribune reports that Barnes & Noble is opening a new concept store in Edina, Minnesota, a 21,500 square-foot store in the Galleria mall there that will include a restaurant and bar "aimed at getting people to stay longer."

The store is two-thirds the size of a store Barnes & Noble had in the same mall that did not have a restaurant or bar, though, presumably, it had a lot more books.

According to the story, "The 100-seat cafe, restaurant and bar serves breakfast, lunch and dinner, with prices ranging from $5 to $7 for sides such as tabbouleh and potato purée to $16 to $26 for a brisket burger or slow-cooked short ribs ... Barnes & Noble executives are counting on people meeting a friend for a drink at the bookstore, social interaction that its online rival Amazon.com hasn’t duplicated."

The Edina location is one of four around the country where Barnes & Noble is testing the concept; the others are in Eastchester, New York ... Folsom, California ... and Loudoun County, Virginia. The story says that the company "expects that as many as 100 of the 638 locations could be relocated or revamped to accommodate the smaller footprint with a larger food and beverage section."
KC's View:
It seems to me that when one reads about the independent bookstores that are thriving even in the age of Amazon, one of the things that seems consistent is that they do so by doubling down on the book/reading experience, not by offering short ribs and martinis. But maybe that's because they actually are more focused on books as a cultural imperative, as opposed to books as a commodity.

I'm not saying that the new Barnes & Noble concept isn't viable. I'm actually in favor of trying new things and cutting through traditional boundaries. I'm just not yet persuaded that this is the answer.

It also may end up that Barnes & Noble, no matter how good the brisket burger, may be caught in a middle ground between Amazon on one end and the likes of Powell's Books on the other. And that middle ground may be typified by quicksand.