Barnes and Noble at the Galleria
The Barnes & Noble of the future resembles an industrial loft with concrete floors, wide-open spaces, iPads in place of a central information desk, stylish seating areas for hanging out and plugging in, and a full service restaurant and bar with fully wired community tables and locally sourced craft beer.
So basically, an Apple store meets coffee house/pub meets downtown co-working space—complete with Dr. Dre on vinyl.
The new pilot store opens Tuesday on the lower level of Edina’s Galleria—one of four locations in the country where Barnes & Noble is testing a dramatically revamped format. At 22,000 square feet, the one-level store is significantly smaller than the two-level, 37,000-square-foot store across the hall that it replaces. But Barnes & Noble Vice President of Development David Deason says the inventory is only “slightly” reduced.
What’s missing is a lot of the extra stuff that now crowds the long aisles and end caps at most super-sized Barnes & Noble stores: toys, stationery, electronics—items that, frankly, scream tough times for booksellers.
“We believe it’s important to get back to books as the hero,” Deason says. “The handicap of the old stores is it’s harder to celebrate books. Here, I’ve got the middle of the store free and open.”
And indeed, the entrance to the store is all about books. The display tables are minimal, the spaces around them are spare. The one and only counter is pared down and set back from the entrance. Barnes & Noble is taking a cue from Apple by equipping staff with electronic scanners to locate titles, place orders, and collect payment. Gone are the bargain aisles. Magazines are neatly lined along one wall rather than multiple aisles. There’s an area devoted to under-the-radar books, and another for titles by local authors.
Barnes and Noble Kids' section
What Barnes & Noble is calling “rooms” are more like U-shaped bookshelves devoted to specific topic areas. The children’s department is bright and inviting, but does feel smaller than the old stores. There’s just one Lego table for play, which might disappoint the many parents who treat the bookstore as a field trip for little ones. The music department is also significantly smaller, and surprisingly focused on vinyl—another way Barnes & Noble thinks it can distinguish itself in the age of Amazon.
Barnes & Noble at the Galleria
Deason admits he was hesitant, at first, to give up a highly visible corner of the Galleria—which Barnes & Noble has occupied for 25 years—and move the store to what is essentially the basement of the center, looking out on covered parking. But Galleria owner Hines—anxious to redevelop the old Barnes & Noble space into additional stores, restaurants, and a new grand entrance—made the lower level more appealing by adding on to the store, including soaring two-level windows.
Barnes & Noble Kitchen
One might think that sunny corner would be best suited for the new Barnes & Noble Kitchen, but Deason says he was willing to sacrifice the natural light and sky views to put the restaurant right next to the entrance to the store. “We want everyone to know what we’re about.” Get Stephanie March’s insights on the restaurant—new territory for the bookseller.
Even as Deason declared the new Galleria store “the best store we’ve ever built,” he pointed out plenty of room for improvement. He’s already planning to replace the low seats next to the café with taller community tables. He’s worried the concrete might be too extreme, and wants to “warm up” some areas of the store with carpeting. It’s a work in progress, to be sure, and one that Barnes & Noble executives will be watching closely as they prepare update stores and build new, smaller stores around the country.