Barnes & Noble: a Case Study

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Barnes & Noble

A Case Study

David Creighton

Management 201

Professor Leslie Torrenson

September 16th, 2009

Barnes & Noble: A Case Study

Hiram Percy Maxim was a very successful inventor and industrialist who lived from 1869 to 1936. He was an authority on acoustics and the inventor of the Maxim Silencer which was no doubt an interest to him as his family was a pioneering force in firearms. So now you are probably asking yourself: what does Mr. Maxim have to do with a giant book retailer like Barnes and Noble? The answer is nothing at all. That’s because it is not what Mr. Maxim did for a living, but rather what he once said that is pertinent to this case study. Sometime during the late 1800s or early 1900s Hiram was in a discussion about economic and business systems. He went on record as saying that an economic system, like any other mechanical, biological or social system must grow and change or it will die. About a century after he made that statement, Barnes and Noble would find itself standing at a crossroads preparing to do just that. So let’s take a closer look and place this book selling giant under the proverbial microscope and see what they did and why.

The Early Years

The company can find its roots traced back to two separate businesses. The first was started in 1873 by Charles M. Barnes. He began selling books out of his home in Wheaton, Illinois. He would eventually relocate to Chicago and continue to sell new and used books there. The year 1894 would find Mr. Barnes’ enterprise reorganized into the C.M. Barnes Company and at this point they were dealing solely in school textbooks. Then eight years later in 1902 Charles’ son, William, became the president of the company. William continued to develop the company and see it grow, partnering with investors and businessmen. This run would finally come to an end when he sold his interest in C.M. Barnes in 1917 and moved to New York City (Barnes & Noble, 2009).

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