The future of bookstores may rest on ‘guerilla retailing’

When you look into the rear view mirror of book retailing what do you see? A path littered with failed national chains, including Borders, Hastings, and B. Dalton, along with the rising dominance of Amazon. When you look into the future, what do you see? A path where Barnes & Noble believes smaller concept stores with wine bars and fancy food will attract more customers. But, does that approach make you feel any more confident about the future of the industry? Are we really placing our hopes on wine glasses and cheese plates to revive book retailing?

What if a different path could offer better results? Create business growth by rapidly expanding locations rather than shrinking them. Yet, how is expansion possible when Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million can’t afford to build more big box stores? Consider a guerilla-warfare approach: increase marketshare by fighting small.

For example, we know that the small kiosk model works for selling books. Choice Books is a distributor that successfully sells over 5 million units per year by placing small book racks in over 10,000 grocery stores, airports, drug stores, etc. The downside with their tiny racks, though, is that they don’t offer advertising exposure for book retailers. But, the core idea of selling books via kiosks is a proven guerilla tactic.

I suggest that major book retailers consider the best of both worlds. For instance, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and Books-A-Million could place branded book-selling kiosks in high traffic areas large enough to simultaneously advertise their brand. Each kiosk could feature a small selection of titles specifically picked for relevance to that location. Children’s book kiosks could be placed in toy stores. Business book kiosks displayed in office supply stories. Movie theaters could display kiosks featuring the novels for current films. Kiosks with adult coloring books in craft stores. The big book retailers already have the supply chain systems in place to service these types of outlets.

However, the point isn’t to require huge sales from these kiosks. That’s an unrealistic expectation. Instead, there’s a bigger upside. Placing lots of branded kiosks in high traffic areas helps retailers expand their advertising reach without expanding their advertising budget. The kiosks may not provide huge sales on their own, but they provide a lot of valuable advertising that helps drive more consumers to the big box stores.

Read more…