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RC&D #7: Merchandise for the Real Destinations

May 13, 2009

Non-Readers never make bookstores or book departments a destination. But they go every place you and I go. Groceries, pharmacies, auto parts stores, sporting goods stores, dry cleaners, clothing stores, electronics stores, luggage stores…name any store in the mall and the Non-Reader is 100 times more likely to stop in those destinations than they are a bookstore.

In the life of a Non-Reader, books don’t exist. They don’t need to. They just walk around or drive by.

Which is exactly why books need to be in every store on the planet.

I don’t mean typical rack-jobbing; I mean creating “space”—“bookspace” unique to the stores’ culture, clientele, and goals. I mean investing in the kind of merchandising design that draws attention to books, selecting the kinds of books that fit exactly to the needs of the store, and creating spaces that take on the character of the store rather than compete against it. Think like the magazine REAL SIMPLE—the advertising in that magazine doesn’t look like anybody else’s. It completely melts into the style of the magazine and then, as a result, completely stands out.

Books will add value to any store, if merchandised properly. You will hear the objection that books don’t “turn” as fast as the other widgets in the store and are not as profitable per widget—for the amount of space it takes to display them. Maybe. More importantly, books will provide a way for widget customers to become enlightened and informed about the widgets or expand the widget’s culture. And a good merchandising set up can easily cure the footprint problems—books can go vertical. Even if more books aren’t sold–which is unlikely–customers will spend more time in the stores and become more informed about the widgets being sold. That’s value.

Frankly, it comes down to design. Auto stores need bookspace that looks like spark plugs or race cars. Cookbooks need pantry-like shelving. And sporting goods stores should have interactive book centers in the shape of giant baseballs or footballs.

Of course, the sticky thing is that publishers would have to work with competitors to develop and share those unique bookspaces.  But in the long run, books would become ubiquitous.  Then all ships rise.

Honor people’s real destinations; let’s work together to meet them there.

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