Border's Closing - two stories

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First, a tale from six years ago -- from The Adaptive Curmudgeon's Blog:
Adapt Or Die
Once upon a time I was searching for a particular book. There was a huge imposing bookstore near my house. Rather than muck around on the Internet I�d buy from actual human beings in the real world. Mostly I wanted Instant gratification!

They had coffee, lattes, CDs, maps, gifts, magazines, chocolate, and DVDs, but not the title I wanted. I asked the reference person to look it up. Nope, definitely not in the store.

�Fine, I�ll I�ll order it� I said, reaching for my wallet.
�It�ll be two weeks.� She replied.
Sheesh. So much for instant gratification! �OK fine. Just ship it to my house and I�ll pay now.�
�We can�t ship it to your house. You�ll have to come to the store to pick it up.�
�Well there�s another way. You could order it from our on-line store, then it�ll come to your house.�
�Great! Do it!�
�I can�t. All I can do is �in-store� orders. You�ve got to do it yourself.�
�You want me to put my wallet back in my pocket and go home?�
�You�re serious?�
�You�re doomed.�
�Why? What�s wrong with our on-line store?�
�You�re telling a customer to put his wallet away and then go home to place an order from the host of every on-line store in creation? You�ve heard of haven�t you?�
�Well our on-line store is good too.�
�Yeah but nobody ever got rich telling customers to put away their wallets and go home.�
�I don�t make the policies.�
�Certainly. Well have a nice day.� I stuffed my wallet in my pocket and went home.
That night I placed the order with Amazon. The book was in my hand a few days later.

After that I stopped going to the bookstore in question. It had become a coffee shop with books for scenery.

Why am I mentioning this? Because their demise was already a done deal and I could tell with one single book order. The attitude and business model was a losing proposition. That encounter was about six years ago. Maybe the company could have been saved but I doubt it. At any rate it�s over now.
Second from bestselling author Larry Correia (Monster Hunter International, Monster Hunter Vendetta, The Grimnoir Chronicles: Hard Magic (May 2011), Monster Hunter Alpha (August 2011), Dead Six (with Mike Kupari, October 2011), and The Grimnoir Chronicles: Dark Ocean (November 2011)):
On Border�s closing
Since, as a writer, I�ve been to a LOT of bookstores, people have been asking me my opinion on Border�s closing. I�ve mentioned my feelings about Borders a few times on this blog, so this shouldn�t come as a surprise.

My opinion is Borders did it to themselves.

All of the business editorials I�ve seen are making it out that they were killed by the eBook revolution. Maybe that was a big loss on one revenue stream, but having visited fifty+ Borders over the last couple of years, and having been a businessman/salesman/entrepreneur myself, I can say they were sucking wind in their regular stores too.

Let me give you a few examples. When I do a book signing at Barnes & Noble (the other big box book store), their managers are universally helpful, the staff is normally very knowledgeable. I�ve never had an event at a B&N where they forgot to get books. I�ve never had an event at a B&N where they didn�t seem glad to have me and my fans there. Event at Borders? I�d have a fifty-fifty chance of having management give a damn. Maybe fifty-fifty on the employees, who were usually just listlessly serving time. And only Borders (and one particular Indy store that shall remain nameless) have actually scheduled me to have a book signing, and then forgotten to order any extra books. This has happened to me twice at two separate Borders.

When I go on book tour, I will map out the route, and map out every single book store within a city. Between scheduled events I will travel from store to store, so that I can sign my books that are in stock (signed copies sell better) but mostly in order to meet the staff. I�ve found that if I have fans on staff at a bookstore, I will literally sell ten times as many copies at that store compared to one down the street where nobody knows me.

My reception at Borders usually ranged between negative to blah� It got to the point that if I had to choose between stopping at an Indy, a B&N, or a Borders, I would hit the Indy first, then the B&N, then the other B&N, then every other B&N within 20 miles, and then maybe the Borders� Unless I was hungry, tired, bored, or maybe just wanted to go back to the hotel in case there was something more important to do, like watch reruns of Walker Texas Ranger.

Here is how a drive by would go at an average B&N the week one of my books comes out. Introduce myself to the person at the service counter. Usually they�d grab a manager. Then I�d sign the 5-12 copies of my books that they have. I�d usually end up having a conversation. About half the time, one or more of the staff members would purchase one of my books. (normally I would try to find out who their biggest contemporary fantasy fan was, or just cheat and find out who their Jim Butcher fan was). If I already had fans on staff, I�d make sure they got an MHI patch.

Here is how the average Border�s drive by on release week would go. Stand forever at the customer service counter� Get one employee who goes, er, huh? You want to what? You write books? Oh� Okay� Whatever. Then I would go and sign my 0-2 copies. (right next to the forty thousand copies of various True Blood tie-ins) Nobody would care. Then I would ask myself why I bothered stopping at Borders and drive to the next B&N.
Much more at Larry's site and some great observations in the 60+ comments. Running a business takes diligence but it is not rocket science. Keeping clean and up-to-date books is the first crucial hurdle. Maintaining a "corporate culture" that is cool for your employees and for your customers is the second. With these two, you are 80% of the way to running a successful business. Border's didn't do the second and they were in denial for the first. Watch the numbers and keep everyone happy. A good mantra...

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This page contains a single entry by DaveH published on July 24, 2011 9:20 PM.

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