But hear me out.
While Barnes & Noble might not step to the plate, somebody else, somewhere -- with a significant physical retail presence -- has to do something, anything to salvage the notion of brick-and-mortar commerce.
At this stage, "innovation" in physical retail consists of little more than moving some sales online, taking orders via mobile devices and creating the lamest of lame "store within a store" experiences.
As I marvel ... no, check that ... as I fanboy all over Jeff Bezos, I can't help but think that there has to be somebody else out there with equally as mind-blowing ideas.
After all, Bezos took the place of Apple's (AAPL) Steve Jobs. Or, as iPod gave way to iPhone and iPhone made room for iPad, it's probably more accurate to say Bezos shared space with Jobs.
In any event, while in their own world, Bezos and Jobs were not/are not completely alone. Jack Dorsey created Twitter (TWTR). Mark Zuckerberg conceived Facebook (FB). And Reed Hastings likes to tell people he had the idea for Netflix's (NFLX) original DVD-by-mail concept. There's Elon Musk with everything from PayPal to the eventual hyperloop. Howard Schultz and his team have made Starbucks (SBUX) -- at the end of the evening, a mere coffeehouse -- the envy of a majority of mobile/digital companies.
Bezos. Jobs. Dorsey. Zuck. Hastings (cough, cough). Musk. Schultz.
You mean to tell me that's all we got?
I don't believe for a second there's not a way forward for a company like Barnes & Noble. One that still offers consumers the foundation and, in parts, the core of a solid experience. It doesn't look like there's a way because there's very little, if any, will. And there's no courage to step out and get crazy -- but still run a damn solid business -- the way Bezos has for more than a decade.
Barnes & Noble limps through the motions. As if all they can do is sit in the corner and fend off punches from Amazon. That's the problem. There's nothing inherently wrong with the company's business or even position. It's just that, stunningly, there's no meaningful recognition of the need for profound change. And there's probably a whole slew of internal excuses as to why we can't do this or that.
Yes, when I was in Barnes & Noble I purchased $100 worth of merchandise from Amazon.com. However, the Barnes & Noble experience prompted me to spend the money. The pessimist looks at that and says, You idiot. They put books on shelves like we've been doing for hundreds of years. You call that an experience. You derive hope from that?
However, if I'm at Barnes & Noble, I use that as a starting point for a meaningful turnaround. Not some phony B.S. pseudo-turnaround like the ones we're told J. C. Penney (JCP) and Best Buy (BBY) have embarked on. But something real and exciting. Something meaningful. Something that will pull physical retail from its Amazon-induced, but ultimately self-created abyss.
The physical retail bookselling experience, while hobbled, continues to sustain at some level. These stores generate traffic; they're just not making enough sales.
I purchased the books I saw at Barnes & Noble on Amazon, not because of price, but because I felt compelled to participate in the Amazon experience. There's something that, all things being equal (and, in this case, they pretty much were), makes me want to use Amazon, but not Barnes & Noble. As a heavy customer, I have developed an affinity for Amazon.
Loyalty and trust, as Bezos knows well, drives sales.
It's not that I hate Barnes & Noble. Quite the opposite. I appreciate the role it and, even more so, local bookshops play in my life and the consumption process. But, as is the case across most of brick-and-mortar retail, Barnes & Noble hasn't done anything -- other than maintain and slightly tweak the status quo -- to get people as excited to be part of their cult as they are the cult of Amazon Prime.
This is where Barnes & Noble must move -- immediately -- to bring in a bright mind or three from somewhere in the broad tech sector to enhance what works about the bookstore experience, reinvent what doesn't and create, from scratch, new aspects of it few of us could even begin to imagine.
It feels so obvious now -- Amazon to deliver packages via drone. But it wasn't on most of our radars before Jeff Bezos dropped this surprise on the world during 60 Minutes. Now we're all instant experts, laying down the law about all of the obstacles Amazon will face, from regulatory ones to privacy concerns. It's laughable.
But what's not funny is that Barnes & Noble might actually have an opportunity to fight back, yet they're squandering it.
By now it should be beyond obvious that a) Barnes & Noble doesn't have to die, but b) the present regime just doesn't have it in them to escape death. It's high time to bring somebody in, preferably with zero traditional retail experience, to incite the type of radical change at Barnes & Noble that will bring it back to life. This is not the job of a textbook MBA grad.
With the right person -- or mix of people -- Barnes & Noble has a chance to save Christmas 2014 for physical retailers who have all but given up on anything other than low prices and a smattering of other, equally-as-failed retail tricks.
I have ideas. And I'll offer them over the course of the next several weeks.
--Written by Rocco Pendola in Santa Monica, Calif.