Cypriot-American Demos Parneros Named Barnes & Noble’s Chief Executive

Demos Parneros, who had acted as chief operating officer, was Barnes & Noble’s fourth chief executive since 2013. Photo: Barnes & Noble website

NEW YORK – Cypriot-American Demos Parneros has been named Chief Executive Officer for Barnes & Noble, the Fortune 500 company, the nation’s largest retail bookseller, and a leading retailer of content, digital media, and educational products.

The Company operates 634 Barnes & Noble bookstores in 50 states (as of January 28, 2017), and one of the Web’s premier e-commerce sites, BN.com. The Nook Digital business offers a lineup of popular NOOK® tablets and eReaders and a large collection of digital reading content through the NOOK Store®, as noted on the company’s website.

Parneros served as Barnes & Noble’s Chief Operating Officer from November 2016. In that role, he was responsible for all aspects of Company operations including stores, merchandising, e-Commerce, systems, and real estate.

According to his biography, Parneros was previously President, North American Stores & Online, for Staples, Inc. and has 30 years of leadership experience in all aspects of retail management, including operations, human resources, merchandising, e-commerce, marketing, and real estate.

He started his career at Staples as General Manager of its first New York City store in 1987 and worked his way up the ranks through multiple management positions, including SVP Mid-Atlantic Operations; President, US Stores; President, US Retail; and President, North American Stores & Online, where he was responsible for a team of 50,000 associates, across 1,800 stores, and Staples’ online business.

A graduate of New York University with a Bachelor of Science in Management and Harvard Business School’s Advanced Management Program, Parneros will now lead Barnes & Noble.

As reported in the New York Times, Parneros, 55, takes over only eight months after the bookstore chain ousted its chief executive, Ronald Boire, “ending a brief, tumultuous tenure.”

Board members had decided Boire was “not a good fit for the company,” and since then, he was ousted in August 2016, the executive chairman, Leonard Riggio, who bought the company in 1971 and built up the business into a national chain, has acted as CEO, putting off his retirement, as the Times reported.

Parneros is taking over the business in difficult times. The company is still trying to compete with Amazon and recover from the digital Nook business losses. As the Times noted, “despite some encouraging signs that the physical bookstore market has stabilized, Barnes & Noble has struggled to reverse sales and revenue declines.”

In March, an earnings report for its third quarter showed an 8% decline in sales, down to $1.3 billion compared to last year. Digital content and devices sales fell 26% to $38.4 million and the number of stores has declined as well for the NewYork-based bookseller. In 2010, there were 720 stores and now 634 stores after 7 stores were shut down.

“The biggest challenge is the sales performance; that’s no secret,” Parneros said, “We’ve got to figure out ways to change things up a little bit and increase traffic,” as the Times reported.

His optimism remains high about other aspects, including customer loyalty and the possibility of increasing sales and traffic through more expansion into educational games, toys, and gifts.

Parneros is also enthusiastic about the new concept stores that may attract customers with an updated look and feel to Barnes & Noble stores. Three have already opened in California, New York, and Minnesota with two more planned for Virginia and Texas. The stores are bright and sleek-looking with full-service restaurants serving beer and wine.

Competition from independent bookstores has been increasing in recent years as well. The number of stores is up to 1,775 member stores in 2016, from 1,410 in 2010, according to the American Booksellers Association, as the Times reported. Amazon is also looking into physical retail, opening 6 stores with another 6 opening this year across the country.

Though Parneros has little experience in book sales, he said he had taken a crash course in the business recently, as the Times reported.

Parneros was born in Cyprus and moved to New York City when he was in elementary school. He spoke no English at the time, like many young immigrants. He eventually attended New York University and joined Staples, rising to president of Staples North American Stores and online, overseeing 1,800 stores and its web business, as the Times reported.

Before joining Barnes & Noble in November, Parneros reportedly visited many stores across the US “to get a feel for the company,” the Times noted. During his time as COO, he told the Times that he spent a lot of time with Mr. Riggio who will be staying on as chairman of the company.