As Barnes & Noble Weighs 'Strategic Alternatives,' Commercial Landlords Worry : The Two-Way Earlier this month, Barnes & Noble decided to weigh new "strategic options," which may include putting itself up for sale. That has given commercial landlords pause.
NPR logo As Barnes & Noble Weighs 'Strategic Alternatives,' Commercial Landlords Worry

As Barnes & Noble Weighs 'Strategic Alternatives,' Commercial Landlords Worry

The window sign to a Barnes & Noble Booksellers store in Coral Gables, Florida.  Joe Raedle/Getty Images hide caption

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Joe Raedle/Getty Images

Earlier this month, Barnes & Noble said it planned "to evaluate strategic alternatives, including a possible sale of the company, in order to increase stockholder value."

That announcement alone boosted its share price some, but not everyone is excited about the 137-year-old bookseller's future.

"News last week that giant book retailer Barnes & Noble is putting itself up for sale sent tremors through a commercial real estate industry that's already struggling with record-high vacancy rates," the Minneapolis Star Tribune reported yesterday.

As a "bricks-and-mortar" business in a bookselling world that's rapidly adopting digital downloads, fears are creeping in that a new Barnes & Noble owner would seek to shed or downsize the leases of many of its 700-plus stores nationwide. And some pundits are speculating B&N and other mall-based bookselling chains ultimately could go the way of video rental and record stores decimated by digital downloading.

According to reporter Don Jacobson, "Before announcing it was seeking a buyer, B&N management predicted only a few store closings this year and forecast flat or slightly higher sales in fiscal 2011, helped along, they said, by consolidation in the books business and high expectations for its own digital book reader, the Nook."

But sales numbers haven't been great, and as Reuters points out, "like a dog-eared paperback in the discount bin, Barnes & Noble Inc may prove to be a tough sell."