Barnes & Noble fired a number of employees at its New York headquarters who had been furloughed since March, including a number of veteran buyers. The company didn’t provide a headcount, and confirmed the news in a maddeningly passive statement: “It is with great regret that a number of employees in the corporate office have left our employment. As with so many companies, we evaluate our needs in circumstances much changed by the Covid-19 pandemic. We now have almost all of our bookstores reopened and must align our head office requirements to our store priorities. These are wonderful employees whose dedication and service over the years to Barnes & Noble has been exemplary. We thank them sincerely and are working with them to help them through this transition.”
Sources reported that just three adult buyers remain. According to Shelf Awareness, the fired buyers include such longtime employees as fiction buyer Sessalee Hensley, sci-fi/fantasy and graphics novel buyer James Killen, David Garber and Lisa Echenthal.
Separately, publishers sales reps have been reporting lower initial orders for new titles (as we first described at the end of last year), now mostly expressed as per-store quantities (1’s, 3’s, 5’s, 10’s and case packs). The chain has also told publishers it will no longer buy movie-tie ins, matching a Waterstones’ policy in the UK. In general, all in-store merchandising is seen as in a state of flux. Reps are no longer receiving coop grids showing how and where books will be promoted, and they can no longer request any placement or merchandising extensions. Monthly themed promotions will now be curated by the stores for their own customers and markets.
Highlights has hired Lece Lohr as president of their consumer business. Most recently she was president at apparel retailer and lifestyle brand Justice for Girls.
George Markey Keating, 71, died on Monday from a heart condition. He joined Simon & Schuster in 1978 as a sales representative, rising through the ranks over a 30-year career to become Eastern divisional sales director. After S&S, he was the director of sales & marketing at the Naval Institute Press until his retirement several years ago.
Penguin Random House announced an early start to its annual 2-day transit program. The program, originally devised to support the fall holiday season, will now last eight months, from July 1 through March 1, 2021. The early launch is “designed to help accounts manage the complex process of providing books to readers while navigating various marketplace challenges, including COVID guidelines, new consumer buying patterns, and store re-openings.” The initiative will include PRH’s new in Reno, NV facility “when the transition to Penguin Random House operating systems is completed in mid-August.”
Phoenix Bookstore in Laredo, TX will close soon (after just opening last December).
Some re-opened Waterstones stores in the UK have taken to facing out the back of books instead of the front, so that customers can read the promotional copy without touching the books. (Touched books that are not purchased are quarantined for 72 hours.)