Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Has Obama fixed things yet?

The business climate seems pretty inexorable right now.

I noticed another 'For Lease' sign in a window on the way to the parking garage last night; the store next to it had a 50% off everything sign, which is never good.

My list of stores leaving downtown Bend has hit about 16, stores opening about 6. The Bulletin pegged the vacancy rate downtown at only 5%, which seems low unless we started with an even lower rate.

Got a call from the only other comic dealer I talk to on a regular basis; he has a similar situation and longevity. He was feeling kind of down about things -- the downturn caught him more unprepared, I think. We seem to leapfrog each other a lot. I'll have a few good years and then retreat; then he'll have a few good years and then retreat.

He's more dependent on games than I am, and I think games are having a hard time of it.

I'm actually looking forward to the Magic store opening downtown, because I'm hoping he can get some activity going.

The comics press has been in denial about comics mostly; being mostly comic people, they are defensive about it. But I think comics are down, despite what the statistics they feed the media say. The statistics reflect sales to retailers, not customers, and I'm guessing the retailers had a less than stellar last quarter.

Diamond distributer, a de facto monopoly, has raised the limits on independents, which is causing a lot of concern since smaller publishers already are struggling.

It just makes me want to push into books even more and even faster.

Modern technology and modern media make everything uncertain right now. The Bulletin had two articles today; how not to spend money, and how to trade books online for free.

But none of the product I sell, or indeed, none of the product I could sell, is immune from change.

So I have to look to my own business model, and try to maneuver my way through the mess.

As I was telling Tim, yesterday, about how a used bookstore is dependent on what books people bring in, so too will such "Free" arrangements. So too with things like Kindle.

My store, being in a foot traffic heavy, tourist heavy area, needs to be designed to pick up the impulse reader. Just present them with so many good books, that they can't resist. (Because in the back of their minds, many people will know it ain't that easy, and they just won't want to wait.)

But no matter what kind of store I try to design, the point will be to try to find ways to endure in the face of constant change.


RDC said...

kindle is not dependent upon what people bring in. It is dependent upon what Amazon gets publishers to produce in Kindle format. Most of the Kindle files are copy protected and are restricted from trading, the same as with a number of items sold by Mobi (an e-book software producer and distributor that is now owned by Amazon).

There are some publishers, such as Baen that intentionally sell their books without copy protection. They actually have a free e-book library that contains a number of books by each of their authors, intended to raise interest in the authors works (built around the concept that once you get past the initial publication the demand drops off dramatically so why not give free access as a maketing tool)

Duncan McGeary said...

Yes, I know.

But even loading a new book is an extra step for some people.

Like I said, if I'm catering to 'impulse' buyers, I'm actually going to be safer than catering to 'specific book' buyers.

Linda and I realized early on that we were going to make our living from 'books' buyers, not book buyers, if you catch the difference.

RDC said...

The problem is that the same people that buy multiple books, are often the same people that move to the lower cost options.

So the question is can you support the business based upon the casual "impulse" buyer instead of the serious, very active reader.

As you mentioned in other posts, the impulse shopper will generaly go after higher quality.

The question is will you lose the frequent buyer, the person who, like myself, used to walk into a book store and walk out with 10+ books at a time, as they convert to other methods for getting theri reading material.

A change more likely to impact Linda's store than yours.

The other item to watch is the age demographics at both your store and hers. I feel comfortable in predicting that the average age of buyers will tend to get older over time (weighted by dollar value of books purchased). So the model might get increasingly stressed over the next 10 years.

The good news for used books is that someone will probably turn to used books first during the down turn and then later over time discover the web based book exchanges.

tim said...

I'm uncomfortable with your usage of "inexorable." Remember that "inexorable" just means "relentless."

Perhaps this:

Business closings seem pretty inexorable right now.

Duncan McGeary said...

Man, you're tough.

I thought I'd get away with that...

Olde Dame Penniwig said...

I hope you have a prettily decorated window to bring people into your store. What about plants by your door in the warm season? What about a BUBBLE MACHINE. There is a very famous bookshop that has a bubble machine going most of the time right outside the door. It makes it fun, ladies come in, etc. What about getting some of your friends to stand staring into your window during tourist season? What about getting "living statues" for your window? That's always fun...I do hope you have a window...the Living Models (I used to do this) are people (mainly teens) that stand or pose and they stay so still that people are amazed. Like the Buckingham Palace guards, they don't laugh or move under any circumstances, unless assuming a new pose. You could have them holding books!

You could also have a Panga Paw-tograph day, giving our bookmarks with your kitty's footprint on it!!! I would buy something to get that.

I have to throw in here that I bet your wife's store is prettier than yours, if the blogs are any indication.