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VALLEY BUSINESS

Barnes & Noble to Open at Commons

Books: Establishment of the 25,000-square-foot 'superstore' at new Calabasas shopping center follows Crown's closing of eight outlets in the region.

November 10, 1998|KAREN ROBINSON-JACOBS | TIMES STAFF WRITER

CALABASAS — Just three months after Crown Books shut down nearly all of its San Fernando Valley locations, Barnes & Noble, the nation's largest bookseller, is preparing to open a 25,000-square-foot store in the new Commons at Calabasas shopping center.

The store, which offers sweeping views of the Valley, will be the first Barnes & Noble outlet to open this year in Los Angeles County. It's one of three so-called Barnes & Noble "superstores" set to open this month in the Los Angeles area, the region described by the American Booksellers Assn. as the nation's top book-buying market in terms of both sales and number of bookstores.

By locating in Calabasas, the chain hopes to attract potential book buyers who might not have shopped at chain stores before.

"As a retailer, we also look at the demographics and the traffic patterns," said Rachel El-Yafi, a corporate spokeswoman. "We're very excited about the area."

The store openings come as the book industry nationwide continues to react to two recent announcements from Barnes & Noble that promise to open a new, and some say troubling, chapter in the saga of the highly competitive book business.

On Friday, Barnes & Noble shook up the industry with an announcement that it plans to buy Ingram Book Group, the nation's largest book wholesaler. The move, which raised antitrust concerns among rival booksellers, is opposed by the booksellers association, a leading retail group that largely represents independent booksellers. The organization has vowed to fight the merger, which it called a "devastating development that threatens the viability of competition in the book industry."

Last month, Barnes & Noble announced that it was selling a 50% stake in its online venture to German media giant Bertelsmann, the world's third-largest media and entertainment company, which owns Random House, the nation's No. 1 book publisher, and Bantam Doubleday.

The moves represent further consolidation in a market already dominated by large chains. More than 25% of the $27 billion in consumer purchases of books is made through large bookstore chains, according to figures from the Book Industry Study Group, which does research.

And in the world of chains, Barnes & Noble, with $2.7 billion in sales, is the largest.

Industry experts said it was pressure from larger chains, along with a failure to find its niche, that led Crown Books to close 79 of its 174 stores this summer, including eight outlets in the Valley region.

Even after the pullout, however, Crown executives said they hope to return to the Valley, drawn, as was Barnes & Noble, by its large number of upscale, educated residents.

"Emphatically yes," said Steve Pate, vice president of operations for the beleaguered chain when asked about plans to reestablish a Valley presence. "Those are the customers we want."

In a nod to the family trade, the new Calabasas store will have an extensive children's department, featuring more than 15,000 titles. The department will host a range of special events from story hours to author appearances.

The music department will offer more than 20,000 CDs and cassette titles, along with listening stations and kiosks where customers will be able to type in the names of songs and artists they wish to find.

All told, the Calabasas store will carry 175,000 book titles on a variety of subjects, following the typical pattern for new stores in the chain, executives said.

A portion of the opening-day's proceeds at the Calabasas store will benefit First Book, a national nonprofit organization dedicated to distributing books to children who have limited access to them.

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MALL MULTIPLES

The man who developed the Commons is making his mark throughout the region. C1

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