The Incredible Shrinking Barnes & Noble

“The Incredible Shrinking Barnes & Noble.” This was the LA Times‘ blog post yesterday. I like it and I have stolen it. It speaks volumes to the future of the mall. Entertainment centers for browsing shoppers are shutting down.

Barnes & Noble sees 30% fewer stores in the next decade. The bookseller had 726 stores in 2008, 689 stores in 2012 and in 10 years this will drop to 450? Perhaps this is optimistic? The certainty is that there will be much shuttering.

Barnes & Noble’s projected closings and Target’s  new price-matching policy are all signs of retail in distress. The trend toward mobile shopping is likely to have a lasting impact on the retail landscape.

The physical bookstore could become a thing of the past.

With the mobile consumer in mind, a yoga studio could sell books about spirituality and enable customers to tap their phones to order a physical or digital book in a context-rich environment. The same is true for a doctor’s office, a movie theatre and other locations.

Barnes & Noble executives are undoubtedly aware – as Borders executives before them – that the 2010s are eerily reminiscent of the music industry in the 2000s. Books, reading, and commerce behaviour has changed.

The relationship between shopper and store has changed.

Does this mean good riddance to bookstores, publishers, agents? Perhaps there is a new, more efficient order in town? Perhaps a new, streamlined business model would be both good for consumers and good for the industry long term?

Unquestionably the market and mall is primed for new disruptive models. Amazon coming in with Apple-like book genius bars? New purchase, delivery and consumption models that live between the store and the Amazon cloud?

Stay tuned!


Apple feels Gravity

Jefferies & Co discovers gravity and Apple’s stock plummets. The Wall street pundit says that iPhone slowdown is “real and material” and here for the long haul.

But the most interesting part is the justification Jefferies analyst Peter Misek gave. Misek explained when discussing Apples move from iPhone’s 3.5-inch and 4-inch screens to screens of 5 inches:

“We think Apple is losing the screen-size wars.”

This is the story.When Apple defensively launches an alsoran screen size offered by rivals such as HTC, Nokia, and most pointedly the screen king, Samsung Electronics then the aspirational brand is no longer aspiring.

Screen size will continue to be the dominate discussion and the defining business differentiator. Understand the “consumer’s journey” and produce the size that suits his or her mobility needs.

The iPad invented couch commerce and Apple understood and capitalized on the consumer’s at-home portability needs.

However, in a fast-moving screen war, Apple has not been aggressive over the past four years. Beware falling apples.

What Store Closings Mean to Mall & Mobile?

Today Blockbuster announced that it was shutting the doors on 300 big boxes in U.S. That’s a further 35% of its footprint.

This is the inevitable and slippery slope of incumbent retail stores that cannot support business-as-usual.

The opportunity is tremendous for a company that can enter the mall with a pure showrooming business model. A company that can curate purchase into the cloud and capitalize on co-opt budgets.

Blockbuster, Barnes & Noble, Best Buy and other mall staples find it hard to innovate-from-within for two fundamental reasons:

  1. It has to continue to support its existing infrastructure to the bitter end and this is a costly distraction.
  2. It cannot effectively connect and curate its legacy cloud store and bricks store and make the two a seamless experience for the shopper.

Showrooming is shutting these leviathans down.

The new mall is going to be a challenging space for mall owners. Stores like Blockbuster, Best Buy and Barnes & Noble represent a mall entertainment experience. Now that shoppers browse but do not buy, these stores can not support their weight. The stores exiting will leave the mall a lonelier place.

Mall owners need to be a proactive. They need to innovate with their retail footprint. They need to look to partners that have a vested interest in the future of the mall and can provide new technology (such as Samsung). They need to innovate and fundamentally remodel the way consumers shop and more importantly “engage” in the mall.

Read full article at: Mobile Commerce Daily

Compare Political & Retail Strategies

Just published an excerpt from my recent book Fast Shopper, Slow Store in the Retail Touchpoints publication

As a post script to this chapter, the 2013 election underscored the value of digital BIG DATA. When President Obama hired an analytics war room that was five times the investment in his 2008 campaign, we knew where the focus would be.

Pointedly President Obama’s team hired a supermarket sales promotions “Chief Scientist” called Rayid Ghani. His team rated PERSUADABILITY. . . the art of knowing who was likely to “swing” blue.

Mr. Ghani knew where to target.  This data helped them target media and played perfectly into the mobile (personal) opt-in strategy that the Obama team excelled at throughout the campaign. It allowed them to successfully knock on BLUE doors not RED and target BLUE (and possibly BLUE) phones and steer the vote.

I like to draw a parallel between politics and retail as it illustrates that tactics in one vertical as applicable cross-industry. I would say it is essential for banking, publishing, and entertainment verticals to understand that they are not alone.

The connected screen and the new (painfully) independent shopper are disrupting all incumbent  industries.

Many people in the business of connecting to retail customers are busy reworking their game plan. It may reassure the reader that no one is immune to digital disruption, which has left most industry folk, from brands to broadcasters, from publishers to politicians, questioning the way they engage with their audiences.

The 2012 U.S. presidential election was a perfect example of brands desperately seeking buyers. As the candidates claw for positioning, it is evident that the election process is (surprisingly or not) similar to selling a product in a hugely competitive retail market. Each electoral cycle demonstrates the challenge of courting an increasingly digital public.

The techniques that President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney used to market their platform and gather votes are the same as those embraced by brands to manage their market presence, build engagement, and move their audience to a sale. All the challenges of chasing the itinerant mobile public are the same as those facing bewildered shopkeepers.