Could the Recession Help Small Bookstores?

Will this recession bring about the death of the stand-alone big box store? With the October announcement of Linens n Things folding (sorry) and reports of Black Friday sales migrating to online retailers, Michael Cairn’s perspective at TeleRead makes for some interesting reading.

Cairns suggests that the recession driven toppling of the suburban-sprawling big box stores, there may be even more opportunity for eBooks. He also points out that the new shopping aesthetic might be less ‘pack up the car to conquer the concrete jungle’ on a Saturday afternoon and more ‘pop out to that cute shop around the corner’ on lunch break, giving a lift to the smaller or more urban bookseller who may have lost share to the big guys in the first place.

Can bookstores be the shelter in a storm for readers struggling through significant changes? It’s not just about the pricehere are a few ideas from an office worker bee who loves books and bookstores and wants to be your customer:

  1. Help me be loyal: I come in a couple of times a month on my lunch break, browse the literary fiction and look for interesting books or magazines about yoga. Once I’m at the cash with my choice in hand, ask me if I want to be informed when new books like the one I’m buying come in. Get my email and throw it into a category (fiction/spirituality/whatever). Once a month, send out an update on new books that I might like.
  2. Give me a reason to take a break from work: I’m right downtown, within walking distance of your store. Why not have a 20 minute author reading at lunch time? I might not have time to come in the evenings after work but if it will give me a chance to take a breath during the day, I’m there.
  3. Combine digital offers with in-store purchasing: For 9 hours (or more) every day, I’m on my computer. Why not get my interest while I’m at work with an email about an in-store special? Like I said, I can walk to your storeif I have an incentive to come in and get a deal (and get the book right away plus not feel guilty about the environmental costs of shipping it to me), I will.
  4. Hand sellonline: Start an employee blog/Twitter account to get your staff to suggest great books and let me get to know them a little better. Next time I’m in your store, I’m going to feel like I know who to ask about getting my brother that sci-fi novel I’m sure he’d love and I know nothing about. Make sure you attach RSSFacebook pages are way too much work for me to check. Deliver it to me and I’ll read it.
  5. Say hi, and then let me wander: If the staff don’t care if I’m there or not, I don’t really feel like coming back. But if I feel like it’s weird to nose around due to hovering ‘helpful’ employees, I’m going to get out as soon as I can. Just smile and say hi when I walk in the door…I can do the rest.