Some bookstores have been trying to serve the needs of customers by offering things other than books, from toys and music to cards and stuffed animals. You can even take in a snack at the café. But maybe the future of book retail will reverse itself, where books become the add-on to some other store, the way many gift shops or religious stores or pet stores sell some books.
Bookstores need to exist and should be destination spots but maybe they need to think about who they can partner with and perhaps relocate to where the crowds are. Think about physical places where people still need to go:
Jails Police Stations
Think of places they desire to go to:
House of Worship
Macy’s recently announced it was closing 100 of its stores nationwide. This comes on top of other big retailers having announced closings to come -- Wal-Mart, Office Depot, and Sports Authority -- and of the shuttering of stores in the past few years from Kohl’s, J.C. Penney, and Sears. Is this reflective of a slow economy or a new economy, one where digital replaces physical, where giant robot-run warehouses fulfill the needs that neighborhood stores and malls used to? What does all of this mean for book retail?
It’s no secret that chain, bookstores have suffered the past five years. Borders collapsed and Barnes & Noble still hasn’t found a profitable formula to battle both online sales from Amazon or ebooks. But even if people have started to buy more paper books the last few years than they did previously, bookstores are still at risk. With all this, stores out there are closing. The psychology of the buyer is not to get in a car and drive to his local bookstore. Once you get used to the idea of shopping online for some things, it spills over into other things.
On the other hand, bookstores can be a destination spot for some. In an era of online ordering isn’t it refreshing to come to a physical location where you see people and touch books while browsing? Why not have a bookstore next to or inside a hospital? People wait for hours at a hospital, waiting to be treated or to visit someone recovering from surgery. Books would be a welcome distraction for them.
Any place that people must go to, even out of negative reasons – to a garage to fix your car; at a jail to bail someone out; at a funeral home to make arrangements for a funeral -- could be a place where people congregate. Books should be there to comfort them.
We are running out of places that people need to go to. You can shop for food, clothes, office supplies, home items, furniture, and cars online. The person that used to go to a mall or run a series of shopping errands can’t be found as often as in the past. Those same, people would’ve stumbled by a bookstore too. If they don’t need to be at a supermarket or department store anymore, they will make fewer trips to the bookstore as a result.
Let’s put a bunch of hospitals, medical centers, clinics, and doctor offices in a select part of town -- and mix restaurants, bookstores, and hair salons with them. The key to selling books is to locate them where people will have to pass by them on their way to places they are likely or have to visit. This is mere commercial-sociological engineering at its most basic level.
Hurry fast, bookstores. Things change quickly. Even hotels, which are still being built and filled up, are under threat by AIR BnB. Government business, like filing for marriage certificates or drivers licenses, less often requires in-house visits. The post office could go under one day.
Bookstores need to go where the consumer will be. Otherwise, they will soon go the way of the music store, T.V. repair shop, and automat.
To learn more on how to promote books, read my greatest blog posts from the past five years and 2,000 posts:
2016 Book Marketing & Book Publicity Toolkit
2015 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit
2014 Book Marketing & PR Toolkit
Book Marketing & Book PR Toolkit: 2013
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