Posts Tagged With: bookstores

Is Barnes and Noble a Lost Cause?

I hope not, but after what went down last week that involved firing 1800 full-time employees, things don’t look good. Almost four years ago, I wrote about Barnes & Noble reinventing itself (which was a rewrite of a 2013 post).

Yet little has changed, and much has gotten worse.

Amazon is opening stores, indies have thrived, but Barnes and Noble continues to falter. It seems bound and determined to hold on to this sell-everything-do-everything model from yesteryear. Even Wal-Mart doesn’t do that anymore. Just closing stores and cutting people – without changing your model – doesn’t promote longevity. Just ask Sears and Kmart. Barnes and Noble should be doing this:

Focus on strengths. Narrow the focus back to basics. Be the local, neighborhood bookseller.

Not fire your most experienced people.

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Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

AtS: Hitting the Shelves

First, on-the-shelf, bookstore sighting of Among the Shadows:

This was at indie bookseller, Leana’s Books. I thought I had something else in the picture, but I guess not: J. C. L. Faltot‘s new The Road to Mars is just visible at the extreme right.

To the first of many booksellers!

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“Death of the Bookstore Was Greatly Exaggerated”

With the growth of e-books, the demise of Borders and the shrinking of Barnes & Noble, some thought the bookstore was on its way out. Personally, I disagreed with that sentiment: Anything that skyrockets so fast (e-books) can only come down, the big chains had over-saturated with too many (and too big) stores, and no matter how good on-line shopping becomes, one can still peruse far more books, faster, in person. Sure, I like the best of both worlds, and considering Amazon is opening brick and mortar stores, they get it too.

Lev Grossman wrote “The Death of the Bookstore Was Greatly Exaggerated” in the June 30th issue of Time on the growth of independent bookstores and their sales, at the same time big chains continue to contract. He mentions this revival of indies is in part due to “…new technology [that] makes things like accounting and inventory management easier for small stores. The growth of social media makes it easier to promote events. The demise of the Borders chain in 2011 had the effect, in some markets, of taking competitive pressure off indies.”

Another major part of this growth, I think, is that book buyers have always supported bookstores and the market has never shrunk quite as much as claimed. Borders didn’t simply fail because no one was buying books, they failed more from a poor business model. Barnes & Noble should survive — and I hope they do — if they continue to return to their roots. In other words, they need to be their neighborhood bookstore, not seen as just a big chain.

Authors aren’t overly concerned on how you read their book, on paper or on a screen, but we may have now reached a balance in the market of options. However, Grossman says it best when it comes to the old-school way:

… the paper book – a piece of information technology that has, after all, been tested and honed over the past 2,000 years – has declined to give way that easily.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , | 2 Comments

7 Reasons Bookstores Rock

Haven’t had much time to post lately, but others have been making up for it: Nadine Brandes gives us 7 Reasons Bookstores Rock even in our internet age. Kat Heckenbach has fantastic 68 Book Marketing Ideas you cannot ignore. Finally, Aya and her readers share 51 Book Quotes for you to ponder.

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Reinventing Barnes and Noble

Once again, come the predictions of the end of Barnes and Noble.  Even with the end of Borders,  B&N has had troubles, with many laying the blame at the foot of Amazon and its Kindle-led e-book revolution.

As usual, it is never quite that simple.

I’ve seen many bookstores pop up in former Borders locations. Amazon is a great place to shop for books, and is the legend of internet commerce, but its profit margin isn’t all that high [And since I first wrote this, Amazon has begun to open stores, seeing the profitability in them.  Indie bookstores have seen strong growth. Who says no one buys real books?]. Ironically, B&N stores compete against e-books — all the while pushing its Nook reader — and its own website. All stores have websites, that isn’t the only problem. B&N does make money, if in decreasing fashion. It can survive, if it reinvents itself. That is, it will if it gets back to the basics it began with:

Become known as the local neighborhood bookseller, rather than the national chain bookstore.

The suggestions below are the same I made about a year ago. To these I add this: Forget the Nook. Let Amazon and Apple and all the others have it. E-books are here to stay, but be the old-fashioned bookstore. Be the specialty store. Paper books will never disappear. They are timeless and durable. Just like we treasure ancient tomes, so will the future want ours. And these:

1. Make that regional and local book section more prominent. Expand it. Make your store the one stop place for anyone looking for local authors and books on area subjects.

2. Ditch the cafes. Never stepped foot in one. You’re a bookstore. Yes, there are people who like to hang out in them, so farm them out to someone else. Get out of the food business. [Update: I have since “stepped foot” in the cafe once or twice. Not bad, but just not what I’m looking for when I go in a bookstore.]

3. Indie books and indie presses have grown rapidly in recent years. E-books are their main outlet because they still operate outside traditional distribution networks. Change this. Get their books in your stores.

4. Ditch the music and movie section. If e-commerce has hurt book sales, it has done more so for these other two. Save a spot for local artists, toss the rest. [Update: I realize that there has since been growth in vinyl records, which B&N sells. Good, sell them, but don’t bank on this or that fad (like adult coloring books). Fads come and go. Address them, but they can’t be at the core of your business.]

5. Enough of the $20 membership fee. Virtually no one charges for their loyalty cards.

6. Keep cutting unprofitable stores, but don’t pass up chances to open new, smaller stores in areas with a bookstore vacuum.

7. The kids area, the learning toy section and the games area are the best non-book items you have. They are better quality than what we find in department stores. But how many people know you sell this stuff? Your kids book section blows everyone — even Wal-Mart — away. Tell people. [And remove the toys that others have at cheaper prices. We all love Legos, but you can’t compete. Hobby board games are huge, your hobby board game section is great, but too small.]

8. Overall, your selection, style, arrangement and size of stores isn’t bad. Use your strengths as a national chain, but operate like a local store. Each market is different. Be able to respond and provide at an individual store level. Let them know that you are there. Host events more regularly. Be a destination.

Be like the stores of old. Books will never die, nor do you have to.

 

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , | 6 Comments

Barnes and Noble: The New Local Bookstore?

While authors rely more and more on ebooks and internet stores to reach their audiences, bookstores still deliver millions of books to readers. Many readers, like myself, like the best of both worlds. The ease and savings of home delivery pioneered by Amazon is unbeatable, but no matter how good they are in linking you to other books, it’s still easier to browse in a bookstore. Rarely do I walk in a bookstore and don’t find something new. So why did Borders go under? And now Barnes & Noble is announcing more store closings.

Much of the bookstore industry’s woes have been blamed on the growth of ebooks. An equal, if not bigger, part of the problem is that the chains got too big, too fast, especially Borders. Barnes & Noble had the superior model, better selection and stayed closer to a local bookstore feel. But it too became too big. It entered the ebook reader market a bit late. With the demise of Borders, however, it’s essentially the last man standing. Its recent announcement is only a continuation of ongoing plans to stay afloat. I predict it will succeed, if it takes steps to return to its roots. Be more focused and become known as the local neighborhood bookstore, rather than the local national chain bookstore.

Many retail stores are getting this concept. And while Borders vanished, and Barnes & Noble started cutting, indie bookstore numbers stayed steady. What can B&N do to become the new face of local for readers? Here’s my plan:

1. Make that regional and local book section more prominent. Expand it. Make your store the one stop place for anyone looking for local authors and books on area subjects.

2. Ditch the cafes. Never stepped foot in one. You’re a bookstore. Yes, there’s people who like to hang out in them, so farm them out to someone else. Like Panera Bread.

3. Indie books and indie presses have grown rapidly in recent years. Ebooks are their main outlet because they still operate outside traditional distribution networks. Change this. Get their books in your stores.

4. Ditch the music and movie section. If ecommerce has hurt book sales, it has done more so for these other two. Save a spot for local artists, toss the rest.

5. Enough of the $20 membership fee. Virtually no one charges for their loyalty cards.

6. Keep cutting unprofitable stores, but don’t pass up chances to open new, smaller stores in areas with a bookstore vacuum.

7. The kids learning toy section and the games area are the best non-book items you have. They are better quality than what we find in department stores. But how many people know you sell this stuff? Your kids book section blows everyone, even Wal-Mart, away. Tell people.

8. Stay on the forefront of the ebook revolution. The initial growth may be hitting its peak, but they’re here to stay.

9. Overall, your selection, style, arrangement and size of stores isn’t bad. Use your strengths as a national chain, but operate like a local store. Each market is different. Be able to respond and provide at an individual store level. Let them know you are there.

Be like the stores of old. Books will never die, nor do you have to.

Categories: Books | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

The Return of the Local Bookshop?

I’ve seen many “Buy Local” type movements crop up in recent years, including Small Business Saturday this past weekend. The reasoning behind these events and campaigns is that strong local businesses form a foundation for a strong economy. They also know local markets better. Both of these statements are true.

It is also true that vibrant towns have a mix if employers: Local, regional and national. I don’t buy the “big companies are evil” mantra. They are a vital part of our economy. Nor does supporting local business mean blindly doing so. You can’t sell a product significantly higher than the Big Store down the road and expect people to just buy yours just for local sake. You still have to compete. Contrary to popular belief, Wal-Mart doesn’t have everything.

Having wrote all that, independent booksellers are making a comeback in some areas. In spite of the rise of ebooks, there is still a market for paper books. The collapse of Borders left a huge hole in many places for book lovers. Indie bookstores can order any book you want, but they also can supply what you have never seen before. Often local authors, indie presses and other books under the national radar. No matter how well-connected I am on-line with books, I’m constantly surprised by what I find browsing bookstores.

It’s the best of both worlds.

I spend a lot of time in Barnes & Noble and have been ordering from Amazon since before people realized it wasn’t a rainforest. Whenever I can find a small bookstore, however, I check it out and see if it warrants support. Or I spend time wishing someone would open one.

A local bookstore can be a focal point of your town. Seek them out and give them a visit. You never know what treasure you may find.

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