Today's Retail Scene: Are You Prepared to Compete?
It used to be straightforward. A publisher sent out a catalog of new releases, promoting certain titles to bookstores. Marketing proceeded through fixed channels and seasonal rituals, and, year after year, everyone knew their place in the dance. Not so anymore.
As the economy takes its first hesitant steps out of the deep gloom of a recession, the book industry is reshaping itself as a multichannel, multiplatform operation willing to cater to the desires of an audience accustomed to getting content when and how they choose.
For Concord, Calif.-based C&T Publishing, this has meant reshaping distribution and marketing strategies to match the needs of the niche market it serves. “We sell into a variety of channels, so our needs are constantly changing,” says Publisher Amy Marson. “We sell to the trades, but then we also have what we call our core market, which is selling to retail quilt stores and papercraft stores. It’s a completely different group of distributors, and they get serviced differently.”
This means C&T must maintain parallel distribution and marketing plans. While the conventional trade book market requires Marson to be planning strategy for the middle of next year, specialty retailers operate on much less lead time. “With the core market, we are constantly responding to trends,” she says, “whereas with [distributor National Book Network (NBN)], we are working so far out, we’re more predicting what we think the trends will be.”
With competition from online sales, discount chains and other nontraditional outlets, bookstores are adjusting marketing and retailing models as well. Borders Group recently announced the establishment of Borders Teaching Zone sections, which offer non-book items useful in the classroom alongside a range of teaching publications. The Teaching Zones are located adjacent to a recently revamped children’s department that features an expanded games and toys section.