Borders Closes Stores in 200-Plus Cities: What Lies on the Retail Horizon?
"They are really defining the cutting-edge of commercial bestsellerdom," he says of the big-box chains. "We would love to have people coming into our stores and buying the next John Grisham or Patricia Cornwell, but we know, given the deep discounting and behavior patterns that have people convinced they get better value for those kinds of books at a Target or Wal-mart, we will not be able to compete on that playing field on a price-point basis. So we try to cultivate a market that is deeper, more midlist-driven and backlist-driven."
The top seller at his Westhampton, N.Y. store last summer was a literary commercial novel, "One Day," that required hand-selling. "We sold hundreds of this book, and that was the result of our tapping into a market that is a fairly sophisticated reader, who reads the book reviews, likes to be recommended to and is always looking for something new that is a good beach read, and yet does not insult their intelligence," McKeown says.
It is this ability of independent stores to gauge their markets that gives them an advantage, he adds, as well as provide a rewarding browsing experience.
The "Neighborhood Bookstore Development Bank"
McKeown believes shrinking book superstores have opened up a window for independent booksellers able to capitalize on the opportunity. "The Borders phenomena has created a sense of urgency about this," he says. "Hundreds of markets are potentially without a bookstore for the first time in 40 or 50 years." In an essay written with Don Linn, "Will Independent Bookstores Seize the Day?", he proposed a financing entity modeled after recent initiatives to fund neighborhood grocery stores, a Neighborhood Bookstore Development Bank (NBDB). McKeown and Linn believe such an entity could provide capital to a "new generation" of bookstore owners, as well as those looking to expand existing operations, and call on organizations such as the American Booksellers Association, Ingram and Baker & Taylor to support the effort.