Before we post foreclosure signs outside of book retailers such as Barnes & Noble, Borders, Half-Price Books, and others, because everyone purchases books and downloads them on devices such as Kindle, let’s talk about what these retailers really are.
Yes, they sell books. But, any cursory glance at a visit to these stores will tell you that customers are there for many reasons. They are there for an experience. Last night, at a prominent store of this type, I walked in and found it packed. Patrons filled cafe tables, drinking, eating and chatting. People were on sofas chatting. As I kept walking, I found people listening to CD’s in the music section, conducting business near the magazine section, browsing through gift items near the cash registers, listening to stories in the children’s section, and of course, perusing book aisles.
Any trip to these stores will confirm the notion that these are places that offer experiences, not sell books. Predictions were wrong that Amazon.com would put these stores out of business. It didn’t happen. Predictions will be wrong that devices such as Kindle will do the same.
The reason is very simple. These stores have amply diversified beyond any one product type or line. There is much more to them than books. In fact, they are much less of “bookstores” than Starbucks is a “coffee shop.” As Joseph Pine and James Gilmore argued in The Experience Economy, they have evolved into places where people can go for a fulfilling experience.
While sales have slipped, a CNN Money report indicates that they have done so less than expected, and in fact, no more so than other types of retailers who have felt the brunt of a shaky economy.
Don’t think for a minute that people do not like to get out and relish in experiences. If that is the case, then we would have lost every retail mall once online shopping became available. There are plenty of people who will download books to devices such as Kindle, and among them, many who will curl up in their recliner and read their books that way. But, there are also many of them who will do that and also find their way into retail outlets that stock and sell books.
Perhaps if a retailer only sells books, it will be in trouble. But, not in any more trouble than any other kind of retailer who puts total emphasis upon one product type. That is not what these retailers are doing. They sell books, but offer experiences. And that is why an electronic device will not shut them down.
Do you disagree? Let’s talk about it.