For many years, Barnes & Noble was the Walmart of bookstores, crushing independent sellers through economy of scale. Then a new big bad entered the arena. As it turns out, though, neither pandemic nor Bezos could crush B&N — and now, armed with renewed focus, it’s staging one hell of a comeback. (Still shop independent if you can, though!)

Barnes & Noble has also concentrated on selling books, instead of the vast assortment of items that it once carried and that were only tangentially — if at all — related to reading.

“We were selling a lot of fairly irrelevant things to a bookstore,” Mr. Daunt said. “Nobody thinks, ‘I need a Duracell battery — I’m going to go down to my bookshop.’”