Cafe Bookstores Top the 'Bestseller' List

GRAB a book, order a decaf, and curl up in a comfy chair.

Bookstores, particularly the large chains, are increasingly turning to a retailing format that is helping them ring up more sales -- a combination library-cafe bookstore.

''Bookstores have become the destination for purchasing gifts,'' says Burt Flickinger, a retail consultant at A.T. Kearney Inc., a management consulting firm in New York. He estimates that book sales increased 10 percent last year over 1993, and he attributes much of the anticipated book-buying binge this year to the cafe-style store design.

The trend, Mr. Flickinger says, is getting a big boost from the large booksellers, such as New York-based Barnes & Noble Inc., a nationwide book superstore, which was one of the first book chains to widely adopt the concept.

The goal is to attract mall shoppers who are looking for refreshment and a break from the crowds.

''People can sit down and have a cup of coffee when they get tired of shopping,'' Flickinger says.

''[The cafe] gives you a chance to look at more books,'' Roland Capanna, an insurance broker, says while browsing at the Barnes & Noble cafe opened in Chestnut Hill, Mass., last fall. ''You don't feel rushed, and you spend more time and money here.''

Tattered Cover Bookstore in Cherry Creek, Colo., a ritzy 20-year-old bookstore with overstuffed chairs and couches for customers to lounge in, has also gotten into the act. It opened a coffee shop last fall, says Bonnie Maguire, a bookstore spokeswoman, and plans to open a restaurant sometime this year.

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