November 1, 2011, 12:00 AM

Barnes & Noble takes on Amazon, as it tries to be a one-stop online shop

To make up for the decline in printed book sales, Barnes & Noble is expanding the kind of merchandise it sells on BN.com—including toys and home products—as well as well as growing its business in selling e-book and other digital products.

Stefany Moore

Associate Director of Research

Lead Photo

Printed volumes aren't selling as well as they used to, so bookseller Barnes & Noble Inc. is doing more than investing in selling digital books and its Nook e-book reader—it's also expanding the kind of merchandise it sells on its e-commerce site, BN.com.

In order to quickly ramp up the merchandise it can offer in new product categories, Barnes & Noble is opening up its web site to other e-retailers that sell in the categories of home, gift, electronics, baby and toys. Those are all categories BN.com introduced last month through retailers selling via its new e-marketplace.

"When somebody is buying a cookbook on BN.com, offering them cooking utensils around that category just makes sense," says John Foley, president of e-commerce for Barnes & Noble. "We want to be a one-stop shop online."

Barnes & Noble is the latest retailer to enter the online marketplace arena, which is dominated by Amazon.com Inc., Rakuten Inc.'s Buy.com, Sears Holdings Corp., Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and eBay Inc. In September, Best Buy Co. Inc. launched its own marketplace with eight retailers that mostly sell electronics that Best Buy does not carry.

Some retailers included in the initial launch are baby products merchant Right Start, a unit of Liberty Interactive Corp.; discount web-only mass merchant UnbeatableSale.com Inc.; educational products retailer School Specialty Online; Wayfair.com, the new online face of CSN Stores LLC; and photography products retailer Abe's of Maine.

While Wayfair lists its products on several marketplaces, including Amazon, Best Buy and WalMart.com, it figures the Barnes & Noble shopping portal will offer consumers a different kind of experience.

"If you spend time on the Barnes & Noble site, you get a different feel than you do on Amazon," says Michael O'Hanlon, Wayfair's vice president of business development. "Amazon is a transaction powerhouse and is great at what they do, but the relationship with the customer and brand affinity on BN.com is special. We are excited to get started with that ecosystem."

stefany@verticalwebmedia.com

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