The Closing of Borders, or Retroactive Rules for Staying Open
So, apart from plain lousy business decisions and a poor economy, here's a few lessons that may be learned from Borders, which I'm still working for, going bankrupt and into liquidation:
1. If you have better customer service, make sure that message is broadcast loud and clear. Borders went out of its way to help customers. It had terminals available for customer use all over the place, associates whose first mission was to help those customers, and a rewards program that really rewarded, coupons and discounts that were always greater than 10%. This is the exact opposite of Barnes & Noble. Yet Borders had a smaller market awareness, and rarely advertised, at least effectively.
2. When there's a huge craze that brings droves of customers into your store, make them repeat customers. Harry Potter, the Millennium Trilogy, The Da Vinci Code, the Twilight Saga...These are the big ones, and yet, the only response every time was to have these books...available. These were rabid fans of unusual stories. You don't rely on publishers finding similar authors who then line homogeneous bookshelves, you build a relationship and awareness of the many other books awaiting those readers. You help them believe that there's plenty more to read. Yes, there are significant crazes, and outside of those many people will stay away from bookstores (or book outlets), but if you can retain a significant fraction of the millions of readers who routinely make themselves obvious, you have a far better industry on your hands. More people watch movies, TV, even YouTube videos than read books. Isn't that shame enough?
3. Make your product available for the audiences who don't typically think of you. As kids in grade school, book fairs are a regular occurrence. Yet exactly at the age when those same readers are considering what to do with the rest of their lives, books seem to almost completely disappear behind school assignments and expanded social obligations. Bookstores can help with this kind of problem by making their products available to these readers, the ones who might still like to read, but not in the way, or with the books, their teachers are pushing on them. Where now you have those same readers succumbing to the latest juvenile "humor" selection (I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell, Go the Fuck to Sleep, which is for parents-who-shouldn't-be-parents, and therefore possibly exactly the same audience I'm talking about), you could be introducing them to the latest and finest literary treasure, which is quickly vanishing from American culture. Women's reading groups should not be the largest proponent of reading. They will glom onto dreck like The Help (A.K.A. Gone with the Wind 2.0).
4. For the love of god, fill your stores with employees who actually read for their own pleasure. You might have more customers who are willing to do the same.
5. Probably wouldn't hurt, either, for those same employees to be interested in their jobs. Just sayin'.