Barnes & Noble announced on Thursday it has promoted COO Demos Parneros to fill the vacant CEO spot, which has been temporarily led by Chairman of the Board of Directors Leonard Riggio, according to a company press release.
Parnero, who joined the company in November 2016 as acting COO, has 30 years of experience in retail management, human resources, merchandising, e-commerce, marketing and real estate. He previously served as the president of North American stores & online at Staples, where he had worked since 1987.
The CEO spot has been vacant since August when former CEO Ronald Boire abruptly stepped down after less than a year in the role. At the time, the bookseller’s board of directors stated he was “not a good fit for the company.”
With Parneros’ appointment, Barnes & Noble has named a new CEO for the fourth time in as many years during a tumultuous period for the bookstore retailer. As sales plunge and cost-cutting measures ramp up, the pressure is on for Parneros to turn around the business — and executives have high hopes.
“It has become abundantly clear over the last five months that Demos is a perfect fit for our Company and an outstanding choice for Chief Executive Officer,” Riggio said in a statement. “He is highly respected by our Board of Directors and our leadership team, and I believe Demos is fully prepared to help foster a new era of growth for Barnes & Noble.”
Growth is something the company hasn’t seen for some time now. Since Amazon disrupted the book retailing business back in the 1990s, Barnes & Noble has struggled to recover its once-dominant position in the market. A number of missteps in recent years — from a botched relaunch of its website in 2015 to Ronald Boire's sudden departure after some promising initial signs — have plagued the retailer's attempts at a turnaround.
More recently, third quarter sales for fiscal 2017 dropped 8% over the year-ago period and same-store sales declined an alarming 8.3%. Roughly one-third of that decline has been pegged on falling demand for once-popular coloring books and art supplies, as well as the lack of new music from Adele, the company said — suggesting that Barnes & Noble’s fortunes have been dependent on the more whimsical aspects of the market.
In a conference call with analysts in March, Riggio said the company would refocus its efforts on cutting expenses to protect profits. But even he acknowledged the limits of that approach. “[S]mart expense reduction… will only last so long. Maybe we’ve got another two years of having expense reductions,” he said. “I don’t know that we can get to the $80 million again, but we’ll have expense reductions but then you kind of run out of gas there. Our future is going to be determined by reversing the negative sales.”
Riggio, who initially planned to retire in September 2016 but postponed his departure to lead the retailer in the wake of Boire’s unexpected exit, initially named Parneros as a top candidate for the CEO spot in March. Parneros brings substantial expertise in integrating e-commerce and brick-and-mortar into a holistic omnichannel strategy, an effort he spearheaded at Staples.