Barnes and Noble…or…Nooks-R-Us

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I was just thinking about this!  Over the past few months, I’ve noticed my local Barnes and Noble store looking more like a hybrid of the Apple store and Toys-R-Us. When you walk in, there is a large Apple-like space where customers can play with the Nook. On the other side of the store are several rows of toys – games, puzzles, plush, etc. I was sad about the increasingly limited browsing opportunities, but didn’t want to be a luddite, and so I told myself that if Barnes and Noble can use the sale of toys and e-readers to keep Jane Austen on the shelf, then I would have to get over it.  But honestly, I was disappointed.

Anyway, I was reading a round-up of book-related articles today and came across this from The Washington Post:

TOY STORES NO LONGER CORNER MARKET ON CHILD’S PLAY

By Michael S. Rosenwald
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, December 18, 2010; 12:00 AM

At the Barnes & Noble in Tysons Corner Center, one aisle has a peculiar new configuration.

On one side, new current events books about America and its troubles and promise. On the other side, toys: Cook and Play Potsy, My Pal Scout, Ernie Fire Engine.

“I had no idea this was here,” said Charles Davis, an Alexandria resident shopping with his companion, Sabina Sauer.

They had stumbled upon the intriguing new world of toy retailing, in which Barnes & Noble, Borders and retailers even less associated with products for little kids – Whole Foods Market, The Vitamin Shoppe – are angling for parental wallets with high-end, mostly educational toys, often with a green component.

The new toy hawkers know that children’s wares have been an easy path to parents’ wallets for eons, particularly during recessions. Older shoppers may recall that the original department stores placed children’s items in the very back, so moms had to traverse the entire store, much as many supermarkets stock milk in the rear corner of the store.

But in many ways, the latest shift in the $21 billion toy industry represents yet another reordering of the brick-and-mortar world brought on by the digital revolution.

The trend toward adding unrelated product lines may seem to fly in the face of the niche marketing that has flourished in the Internet era, but retailers say going broader may be an answer to their woes.

The specialty toy industry has contracted significantly in the past decade as big toy chains swallowed smaller independents in a bid to stave off threats from Wal-Mart, Target and Costco. Popular chains such as Zany Brainy and Imaginarium are history. The only standalone toy store at Tysons Corner Center is Lego.

Toy industry executives say that contraction, along with the heavy influence of Amazon.com – which has shown that a business can establish itself by selling one thing (books) and then add many other products – has given nontraditional toy sellers confidence that putting puzzles, games and other delights on their shelves will not turn off consumers.

This is just an excerpt from a longer article, but I was happy that attention was being paid. Not that it will make any difference…

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