Publishers Find Opportunities Beyond Bookstores

Mar 01, 2011
George Anderson

There’s nothing unusual about publishers
exploring channels beyond book stores to
sell their titles. What’s different today,
according to a New York Times report, is the resources they are putting behind those efforts.

As the number
of traditional bookstores continues to decline and more floor space in existing
outlets goes to items other than soft and hardcover books, publishers are faced
with the necessity of seeking other options for growth.

“The national bookstore chain has peaked as a sales channel, and the
growth is not going to come from there,” David Steinberger, chief executive
of the Perseus Books Group, told the Times. “But it doesn’t
mean that all brick-and-mortar retailers are cutting back.”

One of those
not cutting back is Kitson, a group of upscale clothing boutiques in Los Angeles. Fraser
Ross, the owner of Kitson, said consumers purchased 100,000 books in 2010 from
its stores, double from the year before.

Popular sellers at Kitson include How
to Raise a Jewish Dog
and The
Official Dictionary of Sarcasm

“We try to be different,” Mr. Ross told the Times.

sees books as a means to bring depth to its own brand’s story.

“As we try to get them excited about different ideas as they walk in
the door, books can be a tremendous way to narrate those stories,” Aaron
Hoey, global general merchandise manager of accessories and home at Anthropologie,
told the Times. “We do a very good job of selecting unique books,
books you’re not going to find in a typical bookstore, and certainly
not in a mass-market bookstore like Borders or Barnes & Noble. And to stumble
across it at Amazon, you have to really know what you’re looking for.”

Discussion Questions: Does selling books take away from the focus of retailers who are not in that business or do they bring added depth to the brand? What nontraditional sellers do you think are doing a good job of using books to add to their brand story? Where else would books be a good fit?

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6 Comments on "Publishers Find Opportunities Beyond Bookstores"

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Max Goldberg
10 years 2 months ago

The type of books a store chooses to sell says a lot about their brand and character. Books can complement a retailer’s brand and add depth that other products cannot. Frequently these are surprise “finds” that add to the overall shopping experience and drive higher sales and profits for the retailer.

Bill Emerson
Bill Emerson
10 years 2 months ago

Books can be a great extension of the brand within the 4-wall environment, far better than graphics and/or signage. Books, if carefully selected, can communicate and reinforce the core brand lifestyle message as well as add some humor. In addition to Anthropologie, Williams-Sonoma and Papyrus do a good job at this. This is an opportunity for any lifestyle retailer to better package the brand message.

Will this replace the volume of the big box book retailers for the publishers? Not even close.

Gene Hoffman
Gene Hoffman
10 years 2 months ago

Technology tends to change things. And a good book, whether unique at those sold at Kitson’s or not, can be the best of friends to some competitive retailers in today’s ubiquitous passing parade. No wonder that non-tradional book sellers are smuggling books into their marketing plans.=

Ian Percy
10 years 2 months ago
One line says it all: “We try to be different.” A friend here in Phoenix has had a small successful music/record store for 20 years and that just amazes me. She set it up on a street where no one would even deliver pizzas between a used hubcap place and a tattoo parlor. How did she make that work? She’s different–you can find rare items, vinyl records, independent productions. Not everyone goes there for their music but those who do go there a lot. You can’t stick something different into the corner of a store that looks like all other stores and expect it to catch on. But if you truly commit to being different and have the courage to identify who your customers are and are not–you can win big. Books can be an important tool in creating that difference providing you have “intentional congruence.” In other words is isn’t about “books,” it’s about THOSE books. As someone who has labored over seven books now I’d love to find a new and unique place… Read more »
Ed Rosenbaum
10 years 2 months ago

Adding books to the available shelf space is a good way to have an additional source of non traditional revenue. There is a lot to be said for that. Selling 100,000 books in a clothing store at an average selling price of $20.00 just brought in an additional $2 million dollars. Not exactly “chump change” in today’s economy, is it?

Of course it will depend on the type books you bring in. Those not normally found in the traditional brick and mortar or those which have an appeal to the customer base will be the most successful.

Carol Spieckerman
10 years 2 months ago

Carefully chosen books in a boutique achieve the same goals as aspirational books on a coffee table: they set a tone and they say something about the “owner.” I love the way Marc Jacobs and others are leveraging books to round out their brand narratives and how the quirky and irreverent titles carried at Urban Outfitters serve as a form of entertainment and engagement. Can’t Kindle that!


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