Books, Music and Big Boxes Made of Ticky Tacky
In case you may have missed this little paragraph in Border Books and Music’s annual report last month, I thought I’d post it here:
“To address declining sales in the music category, as well as increasing space available for improved merchandise presentation and expansion of higher margin categories, we have reduced music inventories and reallocated floor space in our stores. In general, this has resulted in greater space being allocated to an expanded assortment of children’s books and other growth categories within books, gifts and stationery and non-book products such as teaching materials. We plan to continue to reduce the space allocated to music during 2009, as well as movie inventory, and continue to increase the space devoted to gifts and stationery and books.”
Can you imagine they may one day be changing the name to Border’s Bland and Misguided?
With all the chatter on these pages recently about new business models, downloads, vinyl sales and Record Store Day, I feel a need to take a moment to eulogize the book and music retail model that has all but died now.
With the aggressive big box expansion in the late eighties and early nineties, Barnes and Borders were a pretty nice alternative to the electronic, home improvement and linen stores that seemed to sprout at every exit ramp. With coffee and couches, they invited you to come on in and stay awhile. There were listening stations for new music, a good selection, tons of magazines, books of course and on many nights you could catch a performance or reading.
As it relates to the music that those here enjoy, next to Tower and the indie retailer, the book stores were not only a champion of the tunes, but they moved a ton of product. They rode the demographics well, appealing to both college students and middle-aged move-to-the suburbs hipsters. It was a place that felt like home sometimes, especially if you were far from a metropolitan area and needed relief from the little boxes made of ticky tacky.
The dirty downside of course was that together the two B’s killed off the indie book business, as well as more than a few music stores. For that, some may believe that they are getting the payback they deserve. And instead of running a victory lap, they report overall sales and profit declines, and are forced to adjust inventory and product mix in order to take a stab at survival.
As someone who lives in an X-burb with Target, Wal Mart, empty strip centers and a mall as the compass points, I already miss the music experience at my local Barnes store. Right after Christmas they cut it down to a mere aisle, and instead of folk, bluegrass, blues and international sections, it’s just the same top two hundred pop titles you can find at all the other big boxes.
The headphones on the listening stations are all broke now, and nobody seems to care. Adios and farewell to another post-modern mecca that will soon bite the dust. By the way…stationary??? Somebody ought to tell these guys about email.