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 amazon.com, 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.