Yesterday’s entry made it into the national specialty media.

Today, I engaged in further conversation on Mike Shatzkin’s blog

Here’s the relevant excerpt:

Mike Shatzkin:
“Andy didn’t quite interpret me right. He think I said Barnes & Noble is
going down. I think B&N (assuming their new management doesn’t screw it up)
will be the last bookstores standing (except for a tiny number of hardy
indies.) I think times have already proven demonstrably more difficult for
indies (writ large; there are always exceptions) than for chains.”

“I agree that there will always be some chainstores around. If you recall however, just a few years ago Barnes & Noble announced that their existing 500 superstores would soon become 1,000, nationwide. At that time I was predicting that their superstore model would collapse. Unless I am mistaken, you are also saying now that their business model, trumpeted so aggressively a decade ago, is now on the rack, and that they will soon be closing many superstores. Nationally there are perhaps 1,100 superstores [run by various chainstore companies] right now. I assume that you agree that a significant reduction in that number does vindicate my prediction five years ago that “superstores are going down”. Here’s my analysis (and the part I was playing) from that time:

Mike Shatzkin:
“Superstores *are *going down. But where are the indies compared to the time
when you made that prediction 5 years ago versus where is B&N? That’s the
point I was addressing.”

“Indies are down from about 1600 members of ABA to about 1450 members of ABA. We seem to be losing 100 stores per year and gaining 100 stores per year. My premise is that indies will begin their rebound as superstores begin to close in significant numbers because laid-off superstore managers and workers will in some cases open stores (in many cases probably underwritten by local real estate interests attempting to restrain drops in property values associated with the closing of book superstores). That is: superstores in many cases were incented and recruited by city fathers. Their departure means the city fathers will again work through chambers of commerce and other local business groups to facilitate the presence of local bookstores. It’s good for neighborhoods. That’s my guess, as of five+ years ago, and I think it’s happening here and there right now, and will accelerate. I want to express again my appreciation for the time you are taking to have this conversation.”

Mike Shatzkin:
“It’s an interesting theory, Andy. I still doubt it, but we’ll see where it goes.”

“I see that the numbers I just quoted in fact say that indie store ABA member numbers have declined 10% in the past five years, which I think is correct. Sorry if I made the incorrect statement that indie numbers aren’t declining at all any more. However, the rate of decline is pretty slow compared to the disaster of the 90s when we dropped from 5,000 to 2,000 in seven years. To conclude this thought (I am standing at a small bookstore cash register on a very busy day today!!) — chain bookstore HAVE lost very big, in the sense that Dalton and Walden are defunct. Over the past five years those two chains lost about 800 stores. It’s true that’s not the superstore sector of the chainstore business, but I was right that chainstores would be in trouble over this period. You are right that as yet, my prediction of an upswing in indie store numbers has not materialized though.”


Leave a Reply