Independent book shops going the same way as Oddbins??
(first posted August 2011)
Another week and another step closer to the launch of Books4Spain and whilst beavering away at my desk, today I listened to an interview on Radio 4 with James Daunt, of Daunt bookshops, and who is now trying to turn round Waterstones.
As the creator of Books4Spain, what was interesting was that he said he believes physical book shops will NOT survive if they are not good enough. Ok so that is stating the obvious but what is “good enough”? That’s his challenge and he has built a very successful chain of 6 book shops in London – whether the same philosophy can be successfully applied to a chain as large as Waterstones is the £53m question – which is what Alexander Mamut paid for the chain!
There is absolutely no question or doubt that increasing numbers of consumers are buying books online – whether physical books or ebooks. There is also little doubt that a good independent bricks & mortar book shop will continue to attract customers. However, the key success factors for such a store are:
- Location, location and location;
- Quality of products, i.e. book selection; and
- Knowledge and experience of staff.
The Internet enables you to address all of the above, and more, with much lower overheads than operating one or more physical stores.
For me a very good example of an “independent” retailer of an in-demand product which was very successful in the 1980s and 1990s because of their locations, quality of product selection and knowledge of staff was Oddbins. Essentially, the double whamy of the internet and supermarkets killed Oddbins off – they have lurched from one crisis to another over the last 10 years.
I’m afraid, I see much the same happening to “independent” book shops – they too are being hit by the Internet and by supermarkets and will find it increasingly difficult to attract physical customers and sell sufficient volumes of books to cover their overheads, let alone make money. I wish them luck because they are, and should continue to be, an integral part of our cultural heritage but I fear the days of many hundreds of independent book shops are numbered.
Books4Spain will be one of the first online book shops which has been specifically developed as an online “independent” book shop whose objective is to retain the benefits and attractions of traditional independent book shops whilst using technology to offer better choice, an easier way to discover books about Spain, great customer service and, ultimately, to enable our clients to learn more about Spain, its culture and history.
I don’t know about you but I’m looking forward to it!