Merch Will Save Bookselling?

Borders Mimics Canadian Partner’s Pilates Gear to Spur Sales

The concept for Indigo was simple: Millions of people love bookstores so much they would buy almost everything there if they could. In the company’s founding documents, Reisman coined the “cultural department store” phrase to describe her booklover’s paradise.


About 30 percent of books are bought as gifts, Reisman says, so it makes sense to pair the wine guides with the brie bakers in the entertaining section or nursery rhymes and pacifiers in the baby area. That’s paid off in sales per square foot, where Indigo’s rate was about $295, more than two-thirds higher than Borders’ $173 last year.

“They give you a lot more reasons to go shopping in their bookstores that have nothing to do with books,” said Antony Karabus, CEO of Karabus Management Retail Consultants, a subsidiary of PriceWaterHouseCoopers Canada LLP. “Those other chains just look like bookstores. Indigo looks like much more.”

It’s very difficult for me to see this working.

1) It requires new staffing. You just can’t take someone whose expertise is books and give them the task of buying niche physical items to create book-themed shopping.

2) It requires pursuing an entirely different demographic. That will split the focus of marketing and shatter the brand’s identity.

3) It will mean even fewer print books get shelf space, causing publishers to shed even more writers, which will also force publishers to shed staff and do emergency downsizing just to stay in business.

At some point, there’s going to come a tipping point where the last place most people think of going to for buying a book is a physical store. What will Borders be then? A boutique operation with some Seth Godin souvenir books on the side?

What’s interesting is that you don’t hear anything about Print On Demand (POD) mentioned by Borders. Or Barnes & Noble. Maybe that is how independent stores can stay alive? Could they survive as Google Editions tip jar operations?

1 Comment

Filed under Bookstores, Digital Overthrow

One response to “Merch Will Save Bookselling?

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