Monthly Archives: November 2017

How independent bookstores thrived in spite of Amazon

28 November 2017

From Quartz:

When Amazon.com burst onto the nascent online retail scene in 1995, the future seemed bleak for brick-and-mortar independent bookstores—which already faced competition from superstores like Barnes & Noble and Borders. Indeed, between 1995 and 2000, the number of independent bookstores in the United States plummeted 43%, according to the American Booksellers Association (ABA), a nonprofit trade association dedicated to the promotion of independent bookstores.

But then a funny thing happened. While pressure from Amazon forced Borders out of business in 2011, indie bookstores staged an unexpected comeback. Between 2009 and 2015, the ABA reported a 35% growth in the number of independent booksellers, from 1,651 stores to 2,227.

. . . .

Five years ago, [Ryan Raffaelli, an assistant professor in the Organizational Behavior unit at Harvard Business School] set out to discover how independent bookstores managed to survive and even thrive in spite of Amazon and other online retailers.

. . . .

Here are some of Raffaelli’s key findings so far, based on what he has found to be the “3 C’s” of independent bookselling’s resurgence: community, curation, and convening.

  • Community: Independent booksellers were some of the first to champion the idea of localism; bookstore owners across the nation promoted the idea of consumers supporting their local communities by shopping at neighborhood businesses. Indie bookstores won customers back from Amazon, Borders, and other big players by stressing a strong connection to local community values.
  • Curation: Independent booksellers began to focus on curating inventory that allowed them to provide a more personal and specialized customer experience. Rather than only recommending bestsellers, they developed personal relationships with customers by helping them discover up-and-coming authors and unexpected titles.
  • Convening: Independent booksellers also started to promote their stores as intellectual centers for convening customers with likeminded interests—offering lectures, book signings, game nights, children’s story times, young adult reading groups, even birthday parties. “In fact, some bookstores now host over 500 events a year that bring people together,” Raffaelli says.

Link to the rest at Quartz and thanks to Dave for the tip
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PG is in favor of people being free to start and run businesses which they believe will provide useful products/services that customers will enjoy and pay for. According to the OP, that appears to be what the owners of Porter Square Books are trying to do.

Porter Square Books is located in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

For those unfamiliar with Cambridge, it is full of people who are those associated in one way or another with extremely expensive private universities – Harvard (estimated annual undergraduate cost of $63,025 for tuition, room, board, and fees) and the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (estimated annual undergraduate cost of $ $65,478 for tuition, room, board, and fees).

Harvard pays its full professors an average salary of $198,400 per year. The median price of a single-family home in Cambridge hit $1,675,000 during the first four months of 2016.

PG is not denigrating Cambridge or its institutions in any way. He has always enjoyed his many visits there. It’s a stimulating and active community environment and right across the river from downtown Boston which offers an even wider range of attractions and amenities for those who are able to afford them.

PG’s point is that the business environment in which Porter Square books operates is probably optimum for a physical bookstore in 2017 and also atypical of most US cities and suburbs.

The population of Cambridge is currently estimated at 105,162. Fargo, North Dakota, Charleston, South Carolina, and Green Bay, Wisconsin, have populations about the same size.

Green Bay has a median household income of $43,063. The median home price is $129,600.

PG wonders how Porter Square Books would do if it were operating in Green Bay.

A quick internet search found something PG had not expected, Readers Loft Bookstore in Bellevue, a suburb of Green Bay, which appears to be doing well as an indie. PG will leave his earlier remarks in place so you can see a failed snark setup in action.

This is a C-span video and PG apologizes for not being able to get it to embed.

https://www.c-span.org/video/?321818-1/readers-loft-bookstore#

Amazon shares to pop another 20% thanks to ‘rapid’ innovation: Goldman Sachs

28 November 2017

From CNBC:

Amazon shares will soar in the next year thanks to its rapid pace of innovation and increased price flexibility, according to Goldman Sachs.

Goldman expects big things from the e-commerce giant at its annual re:Invent conference this week, where analyst Heath Terry sees a number of product announcements. Terry reiterated his buy rating and increased his price target on Amazon to $1,450 from $1,300, implying 21 percent upside from Monday’s close.

“The number of product announcements made during re:Invent has significantly increased in recent years, with more than 15 announced in 2016 versus less than 10 in each of its first 3 years,” Terry wrote on Tuesday.

. . . .

Led by billionaire Jeff Bezos, the company has seen its shares appreciate roughly 60 percent since the start of January, preceding what is expected to be a strong holiday season.

Data from Adobe Analytics showed online Black Friday sales rose nearly 17 percent from last year.

Link to the rest at CNBC

PG is anything but an expert on the stock market, but a prediction (from a credible source) of a 20% single-year increase in the value of a company as large as Amazon is astounding.

An investment in Amazon common stock five years ago would be worth almost 5X the invested amount today. An investment of $1000 in Amazon stock ten years ago would be worth over $12,000 today.

Again, PG is not an expert on the stock market or investing and makes no prognostications about the growth of Amazon’s share price in the future. He cites the share price increase strictly as one measure of Amazon’s extraordinary rate of business growth.

Agencies Are Scrambling to Meet Client Demands for Amazon-Specific Solutions

28 November 2017

From AdWeek:

Amazon is no sleeping giant.

As the Bezos behemoth continues along its unstoppable, disruptive path, brands are increasingly requesting Amazon-tailored services. Agencies have been ramping up their capabilities on the platform and even launching dedicated practices as a response.

Many marketers now view Amazon as a legitimate competitor to Facebook and Google, according to 22squared vp, director of media planning Brandy Everhart. “What they bring to the table is an expensive data set that you can’t get anywhere else,” she said. “We’ve seen a lot of successful campaigns that are focused on driving conversions on the Amazon platform.”

Even brands that don’t sell on Amazon are asking questions due to the power of its search reach and the benefits of its data sets. “Clients want me to increase their engagement in every possible way,” said Matt Bijarchi, founder and CEO of digital brand studio Blend. “We’ve learned ecommerce is also a brand-building opportunity.”

. . . .

Frank Kochenash explained that the agency developed Amazon-related services well before the partnership, offering “everything from strategy to content development to content optimization, paid search management, media management, all on or within the Amazon ecosystem.”

Explaining the Mindshare partnership, Kochenash added that conquering Amazon is a challenge for his clients, as “some are scared and some see the opportunity, but they need an Amazon answer.”

. . . .

Specifically, Kochenash said the Alexa algorithm has “a tremendous amount of control” in determining purchasing patterns, something “brands are rightfully concerned about how to address.” He noted brands face two paths to success on Amazon: either create a great product that results in continual reordering, or have a brand that’s already so strong that customers actively seek it out.

Nick Godfrey, COO of digital consultancy Rain, explained that Alexa was so technologically advanced compared to Siri’s first iteration that Amazon had a “head start” over competitors like Google and Apple. Alexa’s established user base also better justifies innovation budgets for clients and agencies.

. . . .

“If you’re a brand in 2017, you better have an Amazon strategy,” said Godfrey. “The dominance of Amazon goes hand in hand with the dominance of Alexa.”

Link to the rest at AdWeek

PG notes that Alexa was introduced just three years ago and some experts ridiculed the idea. PG has recently read that Hindi and Japanese versions of Alexa are under development.

Gould’s Book Arcade: the political, literary legacy of Newtown’s dusty wonder

27 November 2017

From The Guardian:

If you studied at a university in Sydney, chances are you’d have a memory of one of Bob Gould’s shops. My first encounter was when I was 18 and had just moved out of home into Newtown, with an empty used bookshelf I found on the side of the street.

I unpacked and walked straight to Gould’s Book Arcade on King Street: a legendary, cavernous warehouse-type space, crammed floor to ceiling, side to side, with what seemed to be every used book and dust mite in the world.

The bearded Gould, then in his 60s, sat at the front desk, swamped in piles of paper and peering out into his realm. I asked him for a specific author – something Russian, ostentatious, arts degree-esque – and he slowly pointed from one side of the shop to the other, with a shrug: it could be anywhere out there.

The service was gruff, but it was also kind of perfect, and I spent hours tiptoeing through aisles and over piles that day. I never found the book I came for, but left with so many others that I had to catch the bus back home.

The federal Labor MP Andrew Leigh told his own, livelier memory of the shop in a parliamentary tribute to the activist and bookseller, who died in 2011.

“I was walking down an aisle and brushed past two precarious stacks of books on either side. Both collapsed on me, trapping me for about five minutes, until Bob heard my cries for help and ambled over,” Leigh said.

According to Natalie Gould – who has been running Gould’s with her mother, Bob’s first wife Mairi Petersen, since her father died in 2011– that risk of literary avalanche is one of her favourite things about it.

“It’s always been part of this place,” Natalie says.

. . . .

“It’s the book that falls on your head, or the book that you stumble over – it’s the one that you didn’t know you wanted,” she says. “That’s one of the things I love about this place … secondhand bookshops are much more interesting, and more fun.”

Gould’s Book Arcade has been the dusty wonder of Newtown since it opened on King Street 30-odd years ago, and soon the doors will close. Rising rents have collided with a dip in demand for tattered reads, magazines and preloved records – to say nothing of the looming threat of Amazon – and Natalie and Mairi can no longer afford to keep the place.

Link to the rest at The Guardian

PG has certainly put in his time wandering around old and somewhat legendary bookstores with no discernible organizational principle, but he wonders if they are an idea that has come and gone.

Is it really fun to regularly stumble around an old store for significant numbers today’s college students and twenty-somethings?

PG can find far more exotic books online than he ever could ambling through a dozen physical stores. Perhaps it’s the incipient codgerdom talking, but PG would rather get the book instead of looking for the book.

He has no problem thinking of a great many more enjoyable activities than looking for books. When finding an interesting book required that he spend time looking through shelf after shelf for an interesting book, PG was willing to put in the time, but now that it’s not, he’d rather not be thumbing through crumbling paperbacks.

Whenever PG hears about an interesting book, it goes on an Amazon wish list and happily resides there, ready for instant download upon PG’s slightest whim. He doesn’t specifically think about it, but the time saved from book-searching goes into book reading which is much more fun.

Posterity

27 November 2017

Another reader in the family.

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Amazon 1999

27 November 2017


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Thanks to Christina for the tip.

The Future Of Retail In The Age Of Amazon

27 November 2017

From Fast Company:

The Mall of America’s terrazzo floors, glazed white like doughnut frosting, ribbon out in every direction, creating a vast mirror maze of consumerism with 520 glassy storefronts. Shoppers, who have escaped an endlessly gray Bloomington, Minnesota, sky on a Monday morning in October, drift through the largest mall in the United States like tourists at an Atlantic City buffet. A couple holding hands strolls into a Zales while buttery perfumes emanate from an Auntie Anne’s next door. Kids and some willing parents fling around on the SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge roller coaster, one of 27 rides at the Nickelodeon-branded amusement park on-site. Distant echoes of saxophone Muzak clash with both elevator whirs and bubbly pop songs. Somewhere in this otherworldly commercial expanse are five Lids stores and four Sunglass Huts.

When the mall opened, in 1992, it represented the pinnacle of retail convenience and a mecca for young people to gather and spend. But the $650 million megamall was always “vaguely unreal . . . exuding the ambience of a monstrous hallucination,” as novelist David Guterson described it in a 1993 Harper’sarticle, calling it “monolithic and imposing.” Two years later, Jeff Bezos launched his online book marketplace, which quickly grew into a new type of Everything Store, one that fundamentally redefined the shopping experience and led some to argue that commercial centers like the Mall of America would become gaudy relics of an antiquated era.

Now, Wall Street analysts say, the retail apocalypse is upon us. Amazon dominates e-commerce and has gobbled up 5% of total U.S. retail sales. Some expect that the company will own half the online market within the next five years, a period during which, Credit Suisse predicts, a quarter of all malls will close. By the end of this year, more than 8,600 stores will have shuttered in 2017, the worst year on record.

But here’s the thing about the Mall of America: It’s fighting back. “I hear all this doom and gloom in the industry,” says the mall’s SVP of business development, Jill Renslow, with an upbeat, Midwestern delivery. “I’m like, ‘Folks! Keep your chin up! There’s so much opportunity!’ ” The mall completed a $325 million expansion in 2015, says Renslow, who started working there as an intern in the mid-1990s and has seen it endure recessions and upheaval before. A new 342-room JW Marriott has opened upstairs, and retailers like Zara and Anthropologie are being lured to the space.

. . . .

“Amazon alone isn’t holding the knife,” says NYU Stern professor of marketing Scott Galloway, who studies the retail industry. Cultural tastes have changed. Malls grew too quickly, at twice the rate of the population, from 1970 to 2015. Many retailers succumbed to quarterly earnings pressures, invested in share buybacks rather than their stores, became saddled with private-equity debt, or failed to keep pace with digital trends. What we’re seeing now, industry executives say, is a rational, albeit painful, course correction.

. . . .

“Retail is under huge pressure, but the death of stores is greatly exaggerated,” says Galloway, who believes that while Amazon will continue to disrupt the market, an increasing number of competitors will discover new ways to respond. “In the age of Amazon, retailers must leverage assets that [Bezos] doesn’t have: When Amazon zigs, retailers must zag.”

. . . .

Target’s digital efforts continue to lag. When Mulligan takes me to the back to show off the redesigned storeroom, I don’t see any floor-roaming robots or automated conveyer belts, despite the fact that Target has stated that it plans to use its more than 1,800 stores as fulfillment centers (80% of the U.S. population lives within 10 miles of a Target). Instead, I find just one store clerk manually taping cardboard boxes for in-store pickup. Later, when I arrive to retrieve a $14.99 Goodfellow Henley shirt I purchased via Target’s app, the cashier asks for my ID because the flagship store’s smartphone scanner is broken. When I test Target’s new curbside-pickup service to buy paper towels, it fails at three consecutive outlets within the Minneapolis area. Ultimately, I give up.

Link to the rest at Fast Company

Inside the Wal-Mart vs. Amazon Battle Over Black Friday

27 November 2017

From The Wall Street Journal:

As more holiday sales shift online, both retailers use new tactics, play to their strengths

Wal-Mart Stores Inc. and Amazon.com Inc. battled to capture spending over the holiday weekend, as the shifts that have upended the retail industry this year were on display: fewer people visited traditional stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday while online purchases continued to surge.

On Thanksgiving evening, Alex and Yanira Garcia, who say they traditionally buy nearly everything on Amazon, chose to stand in line at a busy Wal-Mart store in Westbury, N.Y., to purchase pajamas, toys, a TV and other gifts that filled two shopping carts.

“I heard that lots of stores are giving you deals so you come in the store,” said Mr. Garcia, a 39-year-old cook at an elementary school. “So here we are.”

The number of people visiting U.S. stores on Thanksgiving and Black Friday fell 4% from last year, according to RetailNext Inc., which analyzes in-store videos to count shoppers. Meanwhile, online sales increased 18% over that period, said software company Adobe Systems Inc., a shift that is forcing traditional retailers to adopt new tactics.

. . . .

Wal-Mart also calibrated the selection of discounted products it offers online versus in stores, U.S. CEO Greg Foran said in an interview.

Online, the retailer offered more electronics and bulky toys that customers want shipped to homes, then stocked stores with additional lower-priced deals like $5 DVDs, pajamas and other items customers prefer buying immediately or are unprofitable to ship, Mr. Foran said.

In stores, “is [Black Friday] the mayhem that it might have been eight or 10 years ago?” Mr. Foran said on Thanksgiving. “I think that world is gone.”

. . . .

Rosa Hilburn, 58, was among the first people inside a Target in Houston on Black Friday morning, but she was in and out in minutes with only a small bag of loot—several shirts and a Garth Brooks album for her husband.

Ms. Hilburn said she was “really shocked” there weren’t more people at the store but attributed it to the changing times. “Most people do it online now like the millennials,” she said. “But I still like to see and touch things.”

Link to the rest at The Wall Street Journal (Link may expire)

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