Why do some stores succeed while others fail? Retailers constantly struggle with this question, battling one another in ways that change with each generation. In the late 1800s, architects ruled. Successful merchants like Marshall Field created palaces of commerce that were so gorgeous shoppers rushed to come inside. In the early 1900s, mail order became the "killer app," with Sears Roebuck leading the way. Toward the end of the 20th century, ultra-efficient suburban discounters like Target and Walmart conquered all.
The biggest news in book retailing so far this year may be Borders’ opening its first “concept store,” a new generation of superstores unveiled in February in the company’s hometown of Ann Arbor, Mich. At 28,900 square feet, the new store—the first of 14 planned to open this year—does not skimp on size, and a lot of that space is taken up by innovative features: shop-within-a-shop “destination zones” for travel, cooking, wellness, graphic novels and children’s categories; bold, new architectural designs; and a “digital center” offering services ranging from book downloading to self-publishing. “Our mission is to be a headquarters for knowledge