Borders – Continued Downturn – (Inc. Fri 14.11.08 update)

I have continued to read media reports about Borders downturn and came across this article in the Bookseller today.

It seems to simply reflect what all companies want internationally when recession bites. A reduced catalogue to conserve primary shelf space and longer terms of invoice payment. We must remember that there is nothing that sets the publishing industry and its retail sellers apart from any other industry in these times. Shit happens, whether your selling real estate or fruit from a stall. And the way to deal with that is to re-invent your strategy as a seller, but more to the point, how you go about selling what you sell.

From my own experience in retailing, this is something that doesn’t come easily. Often in times of recession, what works best is to allow an autonomy to fall back on the local seller, and when he is part of a national or global retailer, this can be at best difficult, if not impossible. Global retailers set their strategy and model to current economics, but often by the time it filters through to local stores, the message and effect is long lost.

The fact is that more books are bought now than ever before. For me, books have always been a gift. My partner is a ferrous reader, and this Christmas we will spend as much on books as toys for our children. That is not habit, but a commitment to our children’s upbringing and the part we play in their lives as parents.

What retailers need to do is not see the boon of Christmas as a seasonal high, but as a potential market that is there all the year round. And, as a family, we must ask ourselves, why we buy more books at this time of year than any other.

I wrote about going in to visit a Borders store in my locality, (Ireland), a few weeks back, and what struck me most about the store was not that they were not well stocked on books, but the extraordinary range of magazines they held. A range far better than a leading Irish magazine retailer and distributor in the main city centre. It made me wonder whether this was the norm for Borders stores, or a reaction to the downturn in their sales.

There was actually nothing in Borders on that day that should not have been there, but it was how it was presented and displayed told me this was a retailer in crisis who did not know what they were (bookstore or convience stop) or where their place was in the market.

In a recession, you grow only to a point where it doesn’t hurt, you show only enough so it doesn’t spurt, and you only discount what isn’t worth.

EDIT: FRI 14.11.08 12 NOON,


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