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Indigo becoming a model for bookstores as lifestyle emporia?

Publishers and other industry stakeholders reacted with predictable dismay when Indigo Books & Music announced changes to its product mix earlier this year, decreasing floorspace for books in favour of lifestyle products and giftware. However, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald indicates that Indigo’s new business model may be a trailblazer as bookstore chains react to tectonic shifts in the market caused by e-books.

The SMH article refers to a study commissioned by the Australian government’s Book Industry Study Group, which suggests that while print and e-books might co-exist in the short term, the long-term “cannibalisation” of print will require bookstores to rethink the way they do business if they wish to remain profitable. The report, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, points to Indigo as a possible model to follow. From the SMH:

While there was no ”silver bullet” for booksellers, the report singles out Indigo, Canada’s largest bookseller, which promotes books as a ”lifestyle,” not a product. It sells giftware, children’s toys, video games, music, gourmet food and even flowers and is an example of an independent bookseller leveraging people’s affection for books.

Jane Turner, owner of Bondi’s Gertrude & Alice Cafe Bookstore, said it had featured a cafe since it opened 11 years ago.

”We just put in a little wine licence about six months ago, because you’re constantly trying to do things to look after the customers that you have,” she said.

The report is not likely to boost the spirits of booksellers who continue to see their bottom lines eroded by the twin forces of big-box chain stores and the shift to digital bookselling. Just today, Q&Q reported on the incipient demise of the Bookery, Newfoundland’s remaining independent bookstore, which its owner blamed on a combination of big-box stores and people “coming in with their iPhones, taking a picture of a book, and ordering it online.”

  • Really?

    “It sells giftware, children’s toys, video games, music, gourmet food and even flowers and is an example of an independent bookseller leveraging people’s affection for books.”

    Really? Indigo is an independent bookseller? Nice job, PricewaterhouseCoopers.

  • jhembach

    Clearly, the previous commenter didn’t bother to read the piece.

  • Michael Black

    No, the previous poster doesn’t suffer reading comprehension, or else I do too. If the line had been “example for independent booksellers” it would have been fine. But they were definitely talking about Indigo as if it was an independent book store.

    The odd thing here is that the junk Indigo is bringing in is more like an extension than dramatic change. They were gourmet stores to begin with, a corporate vision of the independent bookstore. I’ve seen small out of the way bookstores that had couches or fancy wood panelling.

    But there always seemed a strong focus on books as lifestyle, all those yoga books and coffee table books. Endless photo books that almost seem to be pumped out by Indigo itself (I doubt that, but generic kinds of books that aren’t from the obvious publishers, cheap to make and relatively cheap to buy). That coincides with the rise of book clubs, which strikes me as being more about people wanting a social experience rather than reading or discussing the book.

    All of this broadens the potential customer base, so years later it’s no surprise that they are adding more junk to the stores. I actually bought CDs and DVDs at the Indigo here in Montreal, but apparently that is out of place now, but yoga mats and gourmet furniture is.

    It’s always been bad enough that Indigo cuts back on magazines around this time to make space for calendars, as if magazines were not a monthly event.

    I can buy toys and gourmet furniture everywhere else. it’s getting harder to buy books or CDs or movies except online, because the outlets are shrinking. Yet for every bit of space taken away from those items, it’s one less chance that I’ll be buying there. I’m not going to buy gourmet junk instead of books (or tshirts and books at HMV instead of CDs), so when they toss the books and the CDs, what I want goes with them.
    This isn’t that different from magazines that try to pump up their readership by broadening the content, most of the time those makeovers fail, losing the original audience and not drawing the new.


  • Barb Minett

    I notice the question mark at the end of the title. Perhaps if Quill and Quire were concerned about independents they could take a look at the Guardian site which is building an online map of independent bookstores in Britain!

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