Indy booksellers are still struggling for survival, but having adapted after the attack of the big box stores by carving out community-based niches, their problems are now much more in line with everyone else’s; the shitcanned economy more dangerous than competition. That said, the key to survival is staying connected to your local community, says this piece on the situation.
“This has been a terrible time for retailers in general, including bookstores,” said Avin Mark Domnitz, chief executive officer of the American Booksellers Association in Tarrytown, N.Y. “But the key for independent booksellers is to stay very tightly tied to their local communities, including the shop local campaigns. It’s very important for them to keep those ties.”
The ranks of these so-called “indies” nationwide have been sliding into the shadow of big-box discounters, such as Wal-Mart and Target, as well as growing e-book publishers or Internet-based stores, like Amazon.com.
About 5,400 bricks-and-mortar independent bookstores were around in the 1990s, when the Barnes & Noble and Borders boom hit. Today, about 1,800 remain. The loss of more indies is expected, just as the rough economy chips away at many industries, said Jim Dana, executive director of the Great Lakes Independent Booksellers Association, a group made up of 450 independent bookstores, authors, publishers and marketers.
“We’ve seen a decrease in our numbers and it’s a result of the economy,” said Dana.
Still, the chains are no longer the threat they once were. A survey of independent bookstores and other retailers by the Minneapolis-based Institute for Local Self-Reliance showed that independent businesses nationwide saw the last holiday season sales decline about 5 percent, compared to the same period in 2007. However, the chains saw sharper declines: Barnes & Noble was down 7.7 percent and Borders was down 14 percent.
“Independent retailers in communities with active shop local campaigns have outperformed retailers in cities and towns without such campaigns,” Teicher said.