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Three lessons we can learn from independent booksellers

Emili Alsina, Director, Ediciones Just

  • Key4Communications

Independent American bookstores have achieved what seemed unthinkable - their numbers and revenues grow year after year, reaching, for example, an 8% increase in sales for 2012, according to the American Booksellers Association. And this in the worst case scenario - the economic crisis, competition from Amazon and e-books, and the continued presence of big chains.

The Atlantic suggest three factors that have been really important in this resurgence of traditional bookstores - and toy and babycare retailers could certainly take note.
1. The increasing popularity of local commerce. This is a global trend - there is a return to urban consumption and to local stores versus department stores and shopping centers. In the case of books (as happens with toys), these items are not an important part of the supply of large points of sale, so customers prefer the advice and supply of specialized outlets. Of course, to achieve this, it is necessary to have a distinct and very professional offer - you cannot sell the same as in a hypermarket, as these centers can offer much more aggressive deals and discounts.

2. Commitment to technology. Despite the (understandable) initial reluctance, U.S. booksellers are investing in new technologies, both in regards to online sales and e-books, as many of these bookshops sell e-books through agreements with Kobo. Toy and babycare retailers have it even easier, since their products cannot be downloaded from the internet for free. But they should certainly go digital, offering attractive and well designed online stores, or at least showcasing their offer in a modern and innovative way. They also need to increase their activity on social networks. Customers are already online, comparing prices and looking for information - it makes no sense to turn away from them.

3. Publishers are increasingly working with the stores in terms of sales, marketing and incentives. While certainly toys and babycare items manufacturers work closely with retailers, they should probably take more into account their role as prescribers and their commitment to certain products. Beyond sales volumes, these stores and professionals offer a service that cannot be found elsewhere.

Independent stores should offer a good service and a good experience and forget price wars (as much as possible). Consumers prefer to trust their favourite stores, knowing that if they sell particular product, it is because they offer safety and quality guarantees, two very important factors when reaching kids. And if we can also have all this in our smartphones or computers, thanks to a safe and pleasant online store, even better.

It is not easy, of course, but the example of bookstores shows that this is more than possible.

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