The Barnes & Noble in Riverhead, above, opened in November.

The Barnes & Noble in Riverhead, above, opened in November. Credit: Barnes & Noble Inc.

Barnes & Noble’s turnaround will include a Long Island expansion for the second time in about a year as the bookseller heads to the tony Hamptons.

The retailer, which opened a store in Riverhead in November, plans to open its first Hamptons store in Bridgehampton in October, as the chain continues its shift to growth by opening smaller stores and giving book-selection control to stores instead of the corporate office in Manhattan.

“We know every community needs a great bookstore. Working with our real estate team, a location in Bridgehampton came up,” said Janine Flanigan, director of store planning and development for Barnes & Noble Inc.

Founded in 1873, Barnes & Noble is the only nationwide chain of brick-and-mortar bookstores left in the United States. The parent company has 595 Barnes & Noble stores, including eight on Long Island, and one B. Dalton Bookseller store in the nation.

The Hamptons store will open at 2044 Montauk Hwy. in Bridgehampton Commons.

The store will occupy 9,000 square feet of leased space in the shopping center, while the store in Riverhead occupies 10,811 square feet.

Barnes & Noble, whose average store size is 25,000 square feet, is opening some stores in smaller spaces now because it allows more flexibility, Flanigan said.

Sticking to larger spaces "prohibited us from opening great bookshops in areas where real estate may be limited. Riverhead and Bridgehampton are great examples of this,” she said.

Consumers’ remote work since the pandemic began has reduced foot traffic in bookstores in downtown areas, which is one reason Barnes & Noble is opening smaller stores in more-suburban areas with cheaper rents, said Ed Nawotka, senior international and bookselling editor at Publishers Weekly, a Manhattan-based trade publication.

“Bookselling is largely a real estate business. It’s very much dependent on location,” he said.

As for Bridgehampton, that area has upper-income residents and visitors with sizable disposable incomes, Nawotka said.

“For me, that’s the story in Bridgehampton,” he said.

A new chapter

For several years, before being sold in 2019, Barnes & Noble struggled as fewer people bought books and e-commerce giant Amazon, the largest retail seller of books worldwide, chipped away at bookstores’ sales.

In January 2009, Barnes & Noble Inc. had 778 stores — 182 more than the number now — including 726 operating under the Barnes & Noble Booksellers name and 52 operating primarily under the B. Dalton Bookseller name.

Private equity firm Elliot Advisors bought Barnes & Noble in 2019 and brought in James Daunt as the new chief executive of the chain, which became private. Daunt had turned around the largest bookstore chain in England, Waterstones, also owned by Elliot Advisors.

Some of Daunt’s changes at Barnes & Noble included letting stores’ staff pick their book inventories.

“It really is tailored to the customer and the community,” Flanigan said.

Barnes & Noble opened 16 new stores in 2022 and it plans to open about 30 this year, compared to just 15 new stores opened from 2010 to 2019.

The retailer does not disclose sales numbers, “but we have seen tremendous sales over the last few years,” Flanigan said.

Barnes & Noble has been helped by U.S. book sales in general surging 15% to 20% during the COVID-19 pandemic, starting in 2020, compared to typical growth of 1% to 2% annually, Nawotka said.

Sales also have been helped by books’ popularity being boosted by “BookTok,” where readers discuss and review books in TikTok videos, he said.

Book sales have leveled off, but "the question is whether they will go back to pre-pandemic levels. Right now, that doesn’t look like the case,” he said.

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