In 2008, there were 726 Barnes and Noble (NYSE: BKS) stores globally. Today, there are 627, and that number keeps dropping. That's a loss of roughly 14% of their locations in a decade, and yet, the future looks bright. How is that possible? Just ask the CEO and savior of bookstores everywhere James Daunt.

This piece on how Daunt turns the fates of stores around is a great read, but Thinknum has access to more alternative data to help make things more clear. First up is Barnes & Noble's LinkedIn ($NASDAQ:MSFT) Headcount.

If people like going, they're inclined to give it a like on Facebook ($NASDAQ:FB) - but Likes are flattening. Investor Elliott Management believes that, in a deal worth nearly $700 million, it can likely integrate Barnes & Noble operations with Waterstones, a UK book seller it bought last year. So there must still be something to 'Like' here. 

Look at all these millenials and Gen Z kids showing up to a bookstore! It brings a tear to my eye. I remember the days of opening a holographic Charizard from a Pokemon card pack and attending Game Boy era trainer battle tournaments with link cables in the late '90s. What a better, simpler time that was.

And now, in 2019, they have free Wi-Fi. If people stay longer, they tend to buy more coffee and possibly the books they sample reading. They log in, give Facebook a 'We Were Here' count, give a like, and that snowballs into a deeper experience of hanging out in a bookstore rather than browsing and not buying titles on a shelf.

Just as a comparison, former book e-seller and destroyer of Borders, Amazon dot com (NASDAQ: AMZN). They employ hundreds of thousands, and shopping online is so effortless, the appeal of a BnN is no longer the inventory but the feel of paging through a magazine and sitting down for coffee. It's the opposite of clicking 'download' on a digital copy for your Amazon Fire tablet.

Jeff Bezos' behemoth is the alpha and the omega of buying books nowadays, and the workforce/resources/capital at his disposal to take on (and crush) brick-and-mortar bookstores is staggering. We miss the days of mom-and-pop shops, so BnN is the closest you might find in your town now.

About the Data: 

Thinknum tracks companies using information they post online - jobs, social and web traffic, product sales and app ratings - and creates data sets that measure factors like hiring, revenue and foot traffic. Data sets may not be fully comprehensive (they only account for what is available on the web), but they can be used to gauge performance factors like staffing and sales. 

Further Reading: