Barnes & Noble - down 27%My initial opinion of the new Borders strategy was negative but, as I read more of the article, it started to make sense. Borders Group might as well try it because it might even work.
Books-A-Million - down 28%
Borders - down 58%
The big change is that Borders bookstores will soon be displaying three times more titles face-forward than they do now. The new displays will mostly impact sections like cookbooks, photography books, travel books, art books and, to a lesser degree, the fiction section. Interestingly, Borders plans to use the new display strategy on classics as well as new fiction. The tricky part of this strategy is that it will require the average Borders store to reduce the number of books that it carries by between 4700 and 9400 titles. Will shoppers notice the smaller number of choices? Not necessarily, because where this change has already become the new norm, customers seem to get the impression that the store is carrying more titles, not fewer. And, as the Borders spokesman remarked, every major bookstore has hundreds of books of which it sells only one copy per year, making the inventory reduction a relatively painless process.
It might just work. Personally, I've wandered around bookstores for an hour or so without anything new catching my eye and have left wondering if I had missed something that I would soon read about on one of the dozens of book blogs I visit every week. It often happens just that way, so having more titles directly facing me might actually impact my buying choices (and numbers). But will Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million use the new Borders strategy in ads of their own emphasizing how many more titles they carry than Borders? If so, will they gain business from the most rabid book readers who are impressed with that kind of choice? Or could it be that all of the big box stores will gain from this change and that more books will be sold in total than before? In a perfect world, that would be the case but it is more likely that they chains will continue to steal sales from each other with total sales remaining largely flat.
I have to applaud Borders management for having the courage to try something new...although Wal-Mart already does this with pretty much its whole inventory of books, tiny selection that it is. This is the kind of business decision that has a lot of upside and very little downside. Best of luck to you, Borders Group.