Barnes & Noble lets some workers go in nationwide cuts

The last big nationwide book retailer, Barnes & Noble, started laying off full-time head cashiers, digital sales and receiving managers across the US yesterday.

The layoffs were sparked by a dismal holiday season, a spokeswoman for the company told CNBC.  ''[Barnes & Noble] has been reviewing all aspects of the business, including our labour model,'' she said. ''Given our sales decline this holiday, we're adjusting staffing so that it meets the needs of our existing business and our customers. As the business improves, we'll adjust accordingly.''

Sales slumped 6.4 per cent during the crucial nine-week period ending 3 December and online sales retreated 4.5 per cent.

CNBC reported that employees across ''various'' locations arrived at work yesterday only to find that they had been laid off. Barnes & Noble attributed the layoffs to poor sales performance over the holidays.

The retailer has been under increasing pressure from the likes of Walmart and e-commerce behemoth Amazon, which have managed to corner a larger share of the books market. Walmart has plans for a massive push in selling e-books and e-readers on Walmart.com later this year. Also, Amazon is opening up more of its own bricks-and-mortar bookstores.

Activist investor Sandell Asset Management, last November urged Barnes & Noble to sell itself, saying the sale could fetch at least $12 per share and attract media or internet companies looking for a retail presence. Sandell termed the company's real estate "beachfront property" at the time.

Barnes & Noble shares closed down over 3 per cent Monday at $4.70 apiece. The stock has fallen over 55 per cent from a year ago.