- Barnes & Noble announced on Tuesday afternoon that CEO Ronald D. Boire is stepping down, effective immediately, after less than a year in the role.
- The news came after the board of directors determined he was “not a good fit for the organization and that it was in the best interests of all parties for him to leave the Company,” according to a release.
- The bookseller said it will immediately begin a search for a new CEO. Executive Chairman Leonard Riggio will postpone his already-announced retirement until a later date, the company said, with Riggio and other executives assuming Boire’s duties until they can find a replacement.
Well, that didn't last long: Ronald Boire's tenure as Barnes and Noble CEO never even reached a full year.
Boire was hired at a time when Barnes & Noble was struggling with growing e-commerce competition and declining store traffic. The Barnes & Noble stock fell 60% over the course of 2015, and the book retailer ended the year with a $39 million loss after a botched relaunch of its website halfway through the year.
His hire in September 2015 followed the retirement of Michael Klipper, a 28-year veteran of the bookseller. Boire, a retail veteran himself, previously spent a year as the acting CEO of Sears Canada before taking on the lead role at Barnes & Noble. Boire's background was primarily in merchandising, working for a number of retailers — Kmart, Brookstone, Best Buy and Toys “R” Us.
“Everything we do around learning, personal growth and development fits our brand,” Boire told the Times. “There’s a lot of opportunity.”
Same-store sales began to rise in January 2016 after the retailer had beefed up its non-book offerings. In March 2016, the retailer reported that sales rose 12.5% across the categories Boire wanted to bet on — toys, games, music and small home goods.
But not everything was positive: The retailer continued to suffer from the aftermath of its botched mid-2015 relaunch of its website, with Q3 e-commerce sales falling 1.8% over the last year. The retailer has also been plagued by its faltering Nook and e-reader business: Q3 Nook sales were down 33.3% on slower sales of both devices and content.
The retailer announced in March it would close eight stores — its smallest number of closures in 15 years — as it tested new concept stores to reinvigorate its brick-and-mortar strategy. The new prototype stores were inspired by Boire's omnichannel approach to retailing: leveraging brick-and-mortar stores to drive customers to make purchases online.
"I don’t think until you’re fully connected — mobile, desktop and store — that you’re going to be providing the full experience," Boire told attendees at a conference. "That’s our goal.”
The concept stores will reportedly incorporate table-side dining service — one advantage brick-and-mortar can have over its e-commerce competition. The restaurant concepts fit well with Boire's efforts to push the book retailer into a merchandise mix that would include gifts and toys.
Now Ronald Boire won't be there to see that strategy through. Despite initial positive signs amid largely gloomy results, Barnes & Noble's board lost faith in Boire's leadership. A short statement from the company announcing his exit only said he was "not a good fit."
Following news of Boire's departure, Barnes & Noble shares, which have fallen 25% since January, stayed steady in after-hours trading.