Barnes & Noble’s reputation and success have seen change in the last couple of years, from being frowned upon for seemingly ruthless competition with independent bookstores to being an invaluable gear of publishing mechanics. In addition, the chain outperformed other businesses during the pandemic, despite general retail shutdowns and a massive shift in consumer behavior.
According to a recent CivicScience poll of the bookstore’s brand perception, Barnes & Noble bookstores are favorable among 53% of the Gen Pop. Tracking data over the last three years show a post-pandemic favorability uptick for Barnes & Noble, consistent with reports that reading has become cool again since lockdowns.
The typical Barnes & Noble lover is young (under 35), more likely to be female, and probably a coffee drinker who enjoys books to any extent, although not all favorables read – 7% of Barnes & Noble favorables say they don’t read books. However, part of the bookseller’s improved favorability may relate to a post-Covid resurging interest in in-person shopping. Recent CivicScience poll results show that favorables of the bookstore chain are all about shopping in the actual store rather than online, particularly people who predominantly read new, printed books.
Though books are the number one item to buy at a Barnes & Noble, patrons can also find magazines, toys, puzzles, notebooks, trinkets, and all sorts of enjoyable, giftable items. But one of their offerings is essentially priceless: its environment. The bookstore provides quiet aisles, comfortable chairs, an in-house coffee shop, and a cozy atmosphere.
Despite strong brand favorability and a charming atmosphere, when asked how many times they had been to a Barnes & Noble in the last six months, the majority of the Gen Pop (59%) reported they hadn’t recently visited a location at all. The data show trips to Barnes & Noble were connected to age.
While Gen Z’s shopping preference at Barnes & Noble is a combination of online and in-store, their visits to a brick-and-mortar location in the last six months greatly surpass those of all other age groups. Almost half reported visiting a Barnes & Noble two or more times since late summer. Considering the majority of the Gen Pop hasn’t visited a Barnes and Noble in the last six months, visiting the bookstore even twice is a significant trend.
This is likely because adults under 25 are inclined to seek out versatile environments that provide places to sit, things to buy, and a table for working, studying, or meeting a friend. And Barnes & Noble fans specifically visit establishments like this, even more so than people who love Starbucks (the ultimate sit, drink, and work environment).
It makes sense that Barnes & Noble is opening new stores while other businesses struggle to keep their brick-and-mortars alive. Not only does Barnes & Noble have a strong and positive brand experience, but its business model offers what many establishments cannot: a place to just be.
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