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.