Sunday, March 18, 2018

Fall Of Toys ‘R Us Warns Book Retailers Not To Toy With Consumers

The most prominent stores eventually fall. 

Toys R’ Us is just the latest in a long, long line of chain and department stores to file for bankruptcy and completely close up shop. Radio Shack, Borders, Woolworth’s, Blockbuster and Sam Goody immediately come to mind, but the list is long and growing. 

How does all of this impact how books are sold today?

There’s no doubt that physical retail is under assault. Malls are dying and neighborhoods across America are filled with store vacancies at a time when the economy is humming along. It seems like specialty stores, such as Toys R’ Us, can no longer survive and all that we’ll be left with is 7-10 megastores that seem to sell everything but specialize in nothing.  Let’s name them: Target, K-Mart, Wal-Mart, Sears, Costco, BJ’s, Kroger.  Of course the biggest threat to all commerce, Amazon, looms large over all of these gigantic multi-billion-dollar monster companies. Then factor in specialty stores like Apple, Best Buy, Home Depot, and a handful of others and you’ve just summed up the nation’s retail industry.

The biggest threat to retail is retail. Too many megastores are killing indie mom and pop shops.  The megastores then beat on each other.  With foot traffic down at retail, remaining retail suffers.  Amazon, and online resellers like eBay and Etsy and Craigslist, dramatically injure physical retail. 

Now, look at Barnes & Noble, a failing bookstore chain due to chronic mismanagement, Amazon, and the changing reading habits of Americans who invest in free online content over paid, full-length books. Can they survive?

Stores will always come and go – that’s the natural cycle of things.  Something new, bigger, better or different swoops in to meet the needs of an ever-changing marketplace.  But what’s different today is competition for consumers comes not just from specific chains or individual stores but from fellow consumers.  Everyone resells stuff – new and used – online.  Plus there’s global competition, via online, that didn’t used to exist. It’s actually amazing anyone stays in business for long.

But bookstores, to survive, need more stores to surround them, active ones that don’t sell books.  In my town we have a few indie bookstore close to each other but in between them are some empty storefronts, dormant for years.  My local movie theater went under a year ago and pedestrian traffic is down.  Bookstores need to be centered around places visited by others.

So how do bookstores survive?  The industry has been under fire for decades.  First indie stores had to battle B. Dalton, Walden Books, Crown Books, B&N, Borders, and other big chains. Then they had to battle big box stores that sell everything, including books. Now it has Amazon and the Internet and ebooks to do battle with.  But all is not lost.

America has a population of over 325 million people. We are a literate nation.  But B&N and bookstores can’t wait for people to seek them out.  They need to be active in their communities with around-the-clock events, vibrant partnerships with feeders like schools, book clubs, and non-profits, and they need to make their stores a sanctuary that doesn’t just sell a book but rather provides a book community experience.

I still hold out that the bookstore retailer world will survive and even thrive, but Toys R’ Us should serve as a warning shot, especially to B&N, that the biggest, most famous, and once successful retailers can and will collapse.  

It’s only a matter of when.


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Brian Feinblum’s insightful views, provocative opinions, and interesting ideas expressed in this terrific blog are his alone and not that of his employer or anyone else. You can – and should -- follow him on Twitter @theprexpert and email him at He feels much more important when discussed in the third-person. This is copyrighted by BookMarketingBuzzBlog © 2018. Born and raised in Brooklyn, he now resides in Westchester. His writings are often featured in The Writer and IBPA’s Independent.  This was named one of the best book marketing blogs by Book Baby and recognized by Feedspot in 2018 as one of the top book marketing blogs. Also named by as a "best resource."

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