Barnes & Noble launches new concept in attempt to draw customers back to stores

In the face of challenges from e-commerce, the new prototype store in the north suburbs will include event space and customer lounges

(Credit: PxHere, Geographer via Wikimedia Commons)
(Credit: PxHere, Geographer via Wikimedia Commons)

As big box retailers continue to be battered by e-commerce, Barnes & Noble is introducing a new concept on the North Shore that it hopes will keep customers coming to the store.

The giant bookstore chain this week will open a new prototype store in Vernon Hills that will lean into the store’s cafe and gathering space vibe. It’s one of several concept stores the chain has been rolling out nationwide, according to Chicago Business Journal.

The 17,400-square-foot store will feature oak bookshelves and wood grain tile floors. It will have two “book theaters” where customers can check out new books, a new children’s section with plush chairs and Lego playlets, more lounge space and a 700-square-foot flexible space for book signings and other events.

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The new stores come as Barnes & Noble launches a formal review process to “evaluate strategic alternatives” for the chain, said the company, which some reports said is exploring a sale.

In the Chicago area, the retail vacancy rate rose earlier this year to eight-year highs, thanks in part to big chains like Toys “R” Us going out of business thanks to the rise in online shopping.

There has been some improvement in the local retail market, however, with the suburbs posting stronger growth than the city. [Chicago Business Journal]—Joe Ward