For the book publishing world to have equilibrium, it needs to have bookstores flourishing – both independents and chains. The only substantial chain left is Barnes & Noble and it needs to survive. But two recent moves could alter its path. The question is: Which way is B & N heading?
Company earnings were down in the 4th quarter of last year – by about 10%. It’s been oozing red for a while. It is splitting into two separate units – one for bookstores and the failed Nook – and one for the more lucrative college stores and education and textbook business. On September 8th, a new CEO will take over – after having had another new one for a little over a year and a half. The man coming into the hot seat is no stranger to leading a once glorious big box store with a rich history spanning more than a century. Ronald D. Boire has just finished helping Sears lose money. Call me ignorant, but why would Barnes & Noble put its faith in a man who served as the CEO of Sear’s Canada?
What would I tell the incoming head honcho? How about this:
1. Instead of closing stores, start opening up new ones. There are still many underserved parts of the country that lack a significant bookstore presence.
2. Every store should hold events and author signings – every day -- around the clock. Many stores don’t hold events or only do a handful. It costs the store nothing to hold an event and it can only get people in the store and sell books, so it’s a win-win.
3. Don’t ever close your doors. Ok, we don’t need a 24/7 bookstore, but stores can repurpose their space outside of normal hours. Let B&N become the new town hall. Rent out the space to local groups or to companies that want to hold events or people who want to do a bookstore birthday party. You pay rent 24 hours a day, so make money 24 hours a day.
4. Have audiobook readings done by streaming video or sounds -- no author required. Ok, we’re not saying have a robot do an author signing, but why not have a big screen in the corner of a store that shows video or provides audio for an audiobook reading? Audiobooks are a growing segment – grow them more.
5. Bring back poetry. A small but significant minority want poetry books to live and breathe. Make a push for poetry and see if you get some people in the stores.
6. Have people bring in their pets at certain hours of the day or specific days in the month. Make it a community park. Wouldn’t it be so cool to bring your little pooch to the bookstore?
7. Create a rooftop restaurant. The café idea is great - -now better it.
8. Have a costumed carnival barker right outside your store or down the block. Have them call attention to daily deals, events and new books coming out.
9. Work with local schools and encourage a “field trip” to the bookstore for the students. Have them pre-pay to get a deal on a package of books. Bring in an author to speak and sign. Serve cookies and milk.
10. Have a cocktail hour. Ok, there may be some legal issues linked to that, but once you get people blitzed they will open their wallets and buy every book.
Barnes and Noble essentially has to have an answer to these questions:
· Why will someone shop at their store or site rather than Amazon?
· Why will people hang out at the bookstore instead of somewhere else?
· How do they get customers to spend and not just browse or use the store as a showcase?
· Where should they expand – and when?
· What else can the store sell that would make people come to them?
· Who can they partner with – another brand or community organization – that will bring in more paying customers?
· How do they convince the public to buy books instead of consume content online for free?
· How do they use good citizenry -- such as supporting literacy and free speech – to get customers?
The Great Recession is over and the ebook revolution has slowed greatly. Borders is gone and publishing continues to consolidate. Where will Barnes & Noble go under its new leadership? Time will tell, but hopefully at this time next year we will have something positive to report.
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Brian Feinblum’s views, opinions, and ideas expressed in this blog are his alone and not that of his employer. You can follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at firstname.lastname@example.org. He feels more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2015
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