Barnes & Noble Founder: Retail Climate Is Terrible, Sales Will Keep Falling

Image courtesy of Mike Mozart

Leonard Riggio, the founder of Barnes & Noble, was supposed to retire by now. Instead, he is serving as interim CEO after the company fired imported Canadian CEO Ronald Boire. He started the bookstore that grew into the Barnes & Noble chain more than 50 years ago, and he shared some important wisdom during the company’s earnings call today: things are really terrible in retail right now.

At least, they’re terrible if you’re Barnes & Noble. The only good news from last quarter’s results is that the bookseller lost $20 million less than it did at the same time last year.

“[The current retail climate] is one of the worst I have ever experienced in the 50 years I have been in this industry,” Riggio said during the call, something that his colleagues at Target and Macy’s might agree with.

Barnes & Noble has been trying to expand away from media and into other merchandise, and is even planning new stores that include restaurants. The Bookstore Bistros (not their actual name) aren’t open yet, though, and are really just a scaling-up of the restaurant’s existing cafés.

The company did save money by doing things like cutting staff in stores, which ultimately hurt sales. However, Riggio knows who really is to blame: this year’s presidential candidates.

“The current trend [in retail] can be traced precisely to the current election cycle,” he told the investors, analysts, and journalists on the call, “which is unprecedented in terms of the fear, anger and frustration being experienced by the public.”

The public feels frustrated about a lot of things, and Barnes & Noble’s business model dissolving in a world that has Amazon is one of them, if you’re a fan of bookstores.

Barnes & Noble Founder Says Retail Environment Is Worst in Years [Bloomberg]