Monday, February 11, 2008

Barnes & Noble and other booksellers in the economic doghouse?

Explaining in Publishers Weekly that it is possible Barnes & Noble could report negative same-store sales figures in 2008, a JP Morgan analyst downgraded its stock to “neutral” from “overweight” last week. The analyst explained that a poor economy, the presidential election and increased discounting from Borders could have a negative impact on sales and earnings in the year.

Also according to Publishers Weekly, B&N has not issued its own forecast for 2008. For the 48-week period ended January 5, B&N reported that same store sales were up 2.0%, although holiday sales were below expectations, due largely, B&N said, to poor music sales.

No retailer is immune from today’s doghouse recessionary trends, but it appears that bookstores will have a bumpier ride in 2008. Time will tell. Only about 40% of books sold in this country are sold through bookstores, both chain and independent. So it is up to publishers, especially small publishers such as Southfarm Press, to vigorously develop other markets for their books. I love it when I see a book for sale in a hardware store. Besides bookstores, Southfarm Books have been sold in museum gift shops, online at and other online sites such as and through book clubs.

Going back to Barnes & Noble, in 2006 it purchased retail rights to two Southfarm Books through a packager. We received $3,500 for the rights. However, back in 1987, we received a letter from a B&N buyer saying they would never, I emphasize never, buy any Southfarm Books because we didn't have any bestsellers and many of our books were paperbacks. If B&N had stocked their stores with the two books they later bought the rights for in 2006, Southfarm's income would have been $31,275. So we received only 10% of the income from B&N of what we would have if they had stocked our books, not theirs. Just another example of what a small publisher like Southfarm has to contend with.--Copyright 2008 by Walter Haan,


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