Friday, March 21, 2008

Borders' New Shelving Strategy

The first Friday of spring. Yay!

With yesterday's second post on "Show, Don't Tell" I've completed the "Rules, Rules, Rules" series. I'll soon have the link for the series set up in the archives at left.

About a week ago the Wall Street Journal ran an article on Borders' latest "radical move" to jump-start their sales--turning more books face out on shelves. (Borders is the nation's second largest book retailer, after Barnes & Noble.) Since face-out book shelving requires more space the store will shrink its number of titles by five to ten percent. This is, indeed, a radical shift from the norm at Barnes & Noble and, which emphasize their huge inventory. On the other hand, Wal-Mart offers few books but displays almost all of them face out.

The new display idea came from CEO George Jones, who learned as a buyer at Dillard's that dresses sell better when the entire garment is shown rather than hung sleeve out. He decided to test book sales at the new Ann Arbor Borders by putting more with covers out--and found those titles sold nine percent higher than at other Borders.

The books being cut from stock in order to make room for the more-covers-out strategy will be those that only sell one copy per store in a year. This will mean a reduction of anywhere from 4600 to 9300 titles per store out of the former total of around 93,500. Books shown with covers out will still be the minority overall. Still, the number of them per store will triple. Fiction will feature more face-out titles, but fewer than other sections.

The Borders move is controversial. Some, like John Deighton, editor of the Journal of Consumer Research, says it's overdue. He cites grocery store stock, where everything is face out, including large cereal boxes. "The point of self-service is to make the product as tempting as possible." Other say the strategy is good because too often customers are overhwhelmed by such large inventory anyway.

This strategy may affect small publishing houses, which now can place a debut novel in Borders because of its huge selection. Jones counters that in the past only big titles were shown face out. Now the lesser known titles may get that chance.

The new face-out shelving should be noticeable in all Borders throughout the country in about six weeks.


Timothy Fish said...

Like many authors, I write rare books and I think the initial reaction of many authors will be that fewer books in stores means that their particular book has an even smaller chance of success. If we give it some thought, I believe more face out books is a good move, even for rare book authors. First, and most importantly, this is good for the customers. Even if they aren’t our customers, anything that gives people a better book buying experience encourages them to buy more books and next time it may be one of our rare books. Second, it reduces costs and increases profit for Borders, which with proper management will open avenues for more book sales. Third, it reduces publisher costs because there are fewer returns. This could translate into more titles on the publisher’s list. Fourth, it encourages more online shopping. The customers who are looking for something other than a bestseller will gravitate toward long tail marketplaces like While there, they are more likely to become exposed to publishers’ backlists and to new rare books.

Richard Mabry said...

BC, I've heard that publishers pay bookstores like Borders to display certain of their books face-out. Any truth to this?

Welcome back from Mt Hermon. Have a blessed Easter.

Pam Meyers said...

Interesting. My local paper today has an article saying Borders may put itself up for sale and has lined up 42.5 million in financing to stay afloat. Their shares have droped more than 29 percent. They're losing market share to Wal Mart and online retailers. Me thinks this shelving strategy is connected.

~ Brandilyn Collins said...

Doc, certain stores do run face-out promotions. These can happen in numerous ways. For example when my publisher pays for ad space in a Family Christian or Lifeway flyer, that is accompanied by the bookstores discounting the title a few dollars and turning it face out. Z. also typically markets my books at Books-A-Million through their "top shelf" promo. For a price, this gets my books featured face out on the top shelf.

I haven't seen these types of promos at B&N or Borders, though. Perhaps they're there, and I don't know about it. But from what I know. these bigger stores run the VERY expensive promos of placing the book up front in the store, off the regular shelves entirely, so you see it when you walk in. These promos run thousands of dollars.

Cara Putman said...

Hmm, that's an interesting strategy. It'll be interesting to see if that makes it to Indiana LOL

yacoob said...

Of course the Shelving look good when they are divided equally and according to list , like we have to share the shelving for articles , fiction books , authorized book and etc….shelving should have the clear vision

SolShine7 said...

More face out books sounds like a good idea but just as long as not every book is faced out because then it would lose its effect. But you never know with these things, you have to just take a chance and hope that it goes well.