RealTime IT News

Marrying Online With In-Store

Barnes & Noble Inc. and BarnesandNoble.com said they plan three major integration initiatives to accelerate their clicks and mortar strategy, linking 551 retail stores and its Web site through proprietary technology.

First, the companies, which said their clicks and mortar strategy is succeeding financially, will install Internet Service Counters powered by Barnes & Noble.com in all Barnes & Noble superstores.

The new counters will enable customers to order any book or other product through the Barnes & Noble.com Web site, from any Barnes & Noble store. The service will offer customers the option of paying by cash, check or credit card. Customers may choose to pick up their orders at the stores, or have orders delivered

The second initiative is a membership loyalty program, called Readers' Advantage, that will offer additional discounts and benefits in Barnes & Noble stores and at Barnes & Noble.com. For a $25 annual membership fee, participating customers will get 10 percent additional discounts at Barnes & Noble stores and 5 percent additional discounts at Barnes & Noble.com, as well as a one-year subscription to BOOK magazine and a free canvas tote bag.

Thirdly, customers now will be able to return books and music CDs purchased online to any Barnes & Noble store. Customers who take advantage of the returns program will receive merchandise credits at Barnes & Noble stores.

The success of the clicks and bricks strategy is reflected in continued improvement in financial performance at both companies, the firms said at meeting with analysts today.

Barnes & Noble Inc. said its third quarter comparable bookstore sales "remain industry-leading" and are expected to be a minimum of 5 percent; bookstores earnings are expected to meet analysts estimates. Barnes & Noble will report its third quarter results on Nov. 16.

Barnes & Noble.com, which will report its third quarter results on Oct. 30, said it "continues to show strong sales growth and market share gains..." Specifics were not disclosed.

"We know that multi-channel customers spend more, and we see our new Internet Service Counters as keys to increasing sales in both the retail and online channels," said Steve Riggio, vice chairman of Barnes & Noble Inc. and Barnes & Noble.com.

"The ability to return books to our stores is the No. 1 request from our Internet customers, and we are happy to oblige..." he added.