Barnes and Noble is in a precarious position and layoffs are inevitable

Barnes and Noble is in a precarious position due to the Coronavirus. Dozens of stores already have closed and it is inevitable that the chain will fully close in the coming days. B&N CEO James Daunt told his staff that, should store locations have to close their doors, staffers will “first make use of their Paid Time Off.” After that, employees with a year or more of service will receive “up to” two weeks of pay. “Temporarily, and with sincere regret, on closure we lay off all those employees impacted with less than 6 months employment on the day of closure.”

“With the closure of stores, we are obliged to make the hardest of choices,” Daunt continued “The truth is that we cannot close our doors and continue to pay our employees in the manner of Apple, Nike, Patagonia and REI. They can do this because they have the resources necessary; we, and most retailers of our sort, do not.”

“This is a devastating situation in which to find ourselves and we understand the personal impacts of such action,” Daunt wrote. “When a closed store is permitted to reopen, we will do so, and we intend to rehire. No one knows by how much our sales will decline, nor for how long,” Daunt wrote in a separate note to staff on Friday. “We do know, however, that the drop will be unprecedented and that we must assume this will be measured over a period of many weeks, and possibly of months.”

The COVID-19 outbreak presents a massive challenge for Daunt’s turnaround efforts, which began after Barnes & Noble was acquired in June 2019 by Elliott Advisors, the parent company of UK-based bookseller Waterstones. Daunt had successfully improved the fortunes of Waterstones by investing in stores and empowering local bookselling teams to create a welcoming, community-focused environment, and he was working on applying the same strategy in the U.S.