Today's Retail Scene: Are You Prepared to Compete?
For young-adult readers, in-store Borders Ink Teen Shops stock merchandise associated with popular authors along with books and graphic novels. These recent upgrades, along with the multimedia “shop within a shop” areas built around wellness, cooking and travel unveiled at experimental “concept stores” last year, represent an awareness of the need to build a specialty-shop sensibility into the bookstore environment.
“The experience for our customers is very important. We want to make Borders more than a place to buy books. We want to make it a place to experience books,” says Kathryn Popoff, vice president of books at Borders Group. “… Consumers can find books in multiple channels, whether it’s a traditional bookstore, or the mass merchandisers now carrying a selection of books, or a grocery store, [or on the] Internet. So we have to work very hard to give customers a reason to drive past the competition and come to our store. … We think things like the Teaching Zones and the Ink Shop, in particular, really differentiate us from the competition.”
Stephenie Meyer’s “Twilight” series provides an example of how Borders takes its cue from readers. Reacting to data showing that many adults were buying these books aimed at teens, Borders placed its young-adult shops near genre fiction areas to encourage cross-shopping.
“Retailers and publishers are having to work harder to sell books and be more creative,” Popoff notes. “It’s not enough anymore just to put books out on a front table. We have looked at how consumers are buying the titles, and reorganized the stores around that.”
For publishers, it is also important to consider how retailers and wholesalers are buying. C&T selects certain books to push in the trade market versus the specialty-retailer market, but has made its largest operational adjustment around the challenge of multichannel marketing. One distribution or retail partner, Marson says, might require a PowerPoint presentation and a sales call. Another responds best to tip sheets and a catalog, while still another a postcard, catalog and presence at a trade show. This level of complexity has led C&T to reorganize management to make the company more flexible and responsive to a variety of marketing needs. “We were sort of doing the same thing for everyone [before], and it wasn’t working,” Marson says.