retail news in context, analysis with attitude

by Kevin Coupe

There is a great metaphor for what all retailers need to do in a Salon.com piece that looks at Miami book retailer Mitchell Kaplan, who owns and operates the “venerated” Books & Books stores. Kaplan has a new venture - an independent publishing arm called B&B Press, described as representing “a heartening trend in the brave new world of publishing. Rather than trimming their sails, a number of independent booksellers are taking a page from Amazon by producing titles themselves.”

The story goes on: “As publishers, indies enjoy a few distinct advantages over the competition. First, they can emphasize titles of local interest by local writers. Second, they can showcase the books in their shops. Third, because of advances in printing, they can bring books to market more quickly than traditional publishers. Just as important, when an independent bookstore sells a copy of one of their own titles, they collect all the profits, rather than a sliver. Consider it a poor man’s version of vertical integration ... The leap into publishing by indies can be seen as the literary equivalent of the locavore movement. It not only emphasizes local writers, and local subjects, but also asks residents to support a local business with their dollars.”

Kaplan tells Salon, “If someone loves our bookstore, has been coming in for years, understands what we’re trying to do, and you can put a great book in their hands that was published by our store, I mean, who’s going to say no to that?”

The lesson is one of differentiation - to the greatest extent possible, marketers need to offer stuff that nobody else is selling. Products. Services. Ambience. Tangible and intangible advantages.

That’s the only way to compete. And, as we all know, “compete” is a verb.
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