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Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow (book-retail)

09.19.2020, Uncategorized, by .

We are living in historic times. Covid has permanently changed the way we shop, live, interact and work. Once through this, we will think of a “pre-covid” and “post-covid” world. These are disruptive times.

  • Pre-Covid (PR) – Yesterday
    • Independent bookstores thriving and farmer’s markets thriving. In the past decade, Independent bookstores grew from 1600 to 2500. A new flourish of people entering bookselling reinvigorated the business. Buy local.
    • B&N was the most powerful bookseller in America. But as all market leaders, they declined and lost market share. They were purchased by Elliott Management in summer of 2019.
    • Amazon dominates online bookselling. They are expanding and diversifying their book sales offering by opening 24 book store locations. Speculation they would open up to 400 locations.
    • Many startups entering publishing following digital money. Many failed, but some prevail. But no one had made a serious dent in Amazon’s online strength.
  • Covid: (CVD) – Today
    • Indie bookstores hurt by lock-down and sales down 31.6% from previous years. Some stores are closing and the run to open new ones has slowed. Move toward pick-up and online sales. Farmer’s markets are following the same pattern.
    • B&N decentralized buying decisions and laid off staff; remodeled and cleaned up 100’s of stores. But closed some iconic locations.
    • Amazon dipped initially and then roared back to expand market share They are hiring 100,000 people – projecting an enormous Q4.
    • Bookshop.org has gone from an idea to reality and is expecting 2020 sales of $50MM and recently opened in the U.K.
  • Post-Covid (PS) – Tomorrow
    • Indie bookstores will come back as the farmer’s markets will — both hyper-localized. But this crisis has shown the value of selling and marketing online more than ever. The strongest stores will have blended their stores with online. The shopping experience will have changed.
    • B&N will come back as Daunt looks to focus. Hyper-localized. How successful will B&N be? How many of the 600+ stores will be closed to find the right amount of stores? 100? 200? There will continue to be motion at B&N as Daunt figures it out. He will.
    • Amazon will continue to use data to hyper-localize. Amazon will start to expand their bricks and mortar locations. With all the retailers being knocked off by covid, there will be cheap retail real estate for Amazon to rent/buy. Use as mini-distribution centers. They may lose share in bookselling as they continue to focus on selling everything and there is growing online competition.
    • Some companies have prevailed and are thriving include Bookshop.org, EPIC! and Scribd. All part of the new world of selling books. All have grown in market share due to changing consumer patterns. Expect these booksellers to continue to expand.

The selling of books evolves as the country does. At one time department stores sold the most books; then independent stores; then mall based chain stores like Waldenbooks; then superstores B&N and Borders and clubs like Costco; then Amazon. Who is next?

Lots changing. This just scratches the surface as every sales channel will be different in the Post-Covid Era. I hope we get there soon, for we are in what seems to be an infinite loop. We are in the “Covid DMV Waiting Room” and just hoping to get through this as fast and safe as possible.

A new normal is being created. Why the farmer’s market and independent bookstore comparison? Because the factors in success for each are similar and connected.


Hyperlocal is selling and marketing to the smallest detail, to grab them when they are near, to communicate regularly with your consumer, and to provide a service that is part of the community. Dan Shewan has a good recap of hyperlocal marketing


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