Intriguing Barnes and Noble Stock Jumps on a Reprieve

Barnes and Noble stock - Intriguing Barnes and Noble Stock Jumps on a Reprieve

Source: Mike Kalasnik via Flickr (modified)

For most people, Barnes & Noble (NYSE:BKS) must appear an anachronistic and irrelevant investment. If looking purely at market performance, those naysayers are correct. Year-to-date, Barnes and Noble stock is down more than 20%. But that doesn’t really tell the broader story of consistent declines that brought BKS to this point.

The culprit, as if I needed to explain, is Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN). One of the biggest ironies, of course, is that Amazon started life selling books. Moreover, that’s all that they did. Now, the e-commerce giant has its fingers in almost every sector that you can imagine. And if they haven’t disrupted it yet, it’s only a matter of time before they do.

For long-term investors of Barnes and Noble stock, the writing was on the wall for many years. When Apple (NASDAQ:AAPL) popularized and rapidly proliferated the smart device, BKS needed to respond. With consumers now able to digitally download whatever they want to read, physical bookstores seemed on the path to extinction.

However, BKS stock just received a massive reprieve. According to The Wall Street Journal, the retailer’s management team received multiple offers for a buyout. Among the interested parties is Leonard Riggio, the company’s chairman and founder.

As you might expect, Barnes and Noble stock skyrocketed. While shares closed down 1.6% on the Wednesday session, it soared 22.5% during afterhours trading.

You certainly can’t blame shareholders for the excitement. As far as BKS stock is concerned, this is the best news the embattled company has received in a decade. But is there any room for further upside after this potential lifeline?

The common answer is no. Its financials are awful: BKS stock represents debt, declining sales, and uncertainty. But could a contrarian play be lurking in the corner?

Barnes and Noble Stock Isn’t as Terrible as You Might Think

Admittedly, the idea of BKS stock isn’t for everyone. The company has so far failed to stand up to Amazon and broader retail challenges. Still, if you can look past the ugly, you’ll find a diamond in the rough.

Let’s start by addressing a misconception: Barnes and Noble stock isn’t an investment towards bookstores. If that’s all that you got with BKS, I wouldn’t dare think about recommending it. Instead, it’s an indelible experience.

The reason I’m intrigued with BKS is the same reason why I’m bullish on AMC Entertainment (NYSE:AMC). Movie theaters provide a unique, big-screen experience that you can’t duplicate through content streaming. Plus, the cineplex is a social hub. I don’t care how digitalized we become, humans will always need other humans.

Go to your local Barnes & Noble. Chances are, you’ll find that the stores are usually fairly packed. It’s a great place to hang out, socialize with friends or just to kill time. The company levers an adventurous aspect in that it offers consumers a wide variety of subjects to explore.

To better facilitate this consumer experience, Barnes & Noble features an indoor café. It’s a great money maker, particularly because bookstore shoppers are educated and lever higher incomes. These are the folks who not only buy books, but are willing to engage secondary purchases.

That’s why I poo-poo the idea that Amazon’s physical bookstores will knife BKS in the jugular. Have you seen them? They’re a complete waste of time, being too small, too sanitized, and designed largely for Amazon Prime members.

Plus, the bookstore market has stabilized. Outside of holiday spikes, we haven’t seen much variation in bookstore revenues over the past four years. This is an opportunity for a sector player to revamp the game.

Should You Buy BKS stock?

But is Barnes & Noble the one to lead the charge? They have the right stuff. Their store locations are inviting and expansive. BKS employees are among the best-trained and courteous in the retail business. That indoor café is a major plus.

The problem comes down to execution. Management knows what they need to do, which is to convert their great consumer experience into sales. So far, they haven’t done a good job advantaging its potential.

Still, that potential remains. Here’s how I see BKS stock. If you’re the speculative type who loves browsing for steeply discounted stocks, gives Barnes & Noble a serious look. It’s a gamble that management can either deliver a compelling story, or to finally execute it.

For everyone else, Barnes and Noble stock lacks the confidence factor. Again, I’m intrigued with the nuances, but it’s going to be a nerve-wracking ride!

As of this writing, Josh Enomoto was long AMC.

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