retail news in context, analysis with attitude

Great piece in the New York Times reports on how some bricks-and-mortar book retailers have decided to fight back against the Amazon juggernaut, and the lessons it might offer to other retail segments. Here's now the Times frames the story:

"Amazon rides itself on unraveling the established order. This fall, signs of Amazon-inspired disruption are everywhere.

"There is the slow-motion crackup of electronics showroom Best Buy. There is Amazon’s rumored entry into the wine business, which is already agitating competitors. And there is the merger of Random House and Penguin, an effort to create a mega-publisher sufficiently hefty to negotiate with the retailer on equal terms.

"Amazon inspires anxiety just about everywhere, but its publishing arm is getting pushback from all sorts of booksellers, who are scorning the imprint’s most prominent title, Timothy Ferriss’s 'The 4-Hour Chef.' That book is coming out just before Thanksgiving into a fragmented book-selling landscape that Amazon has done much to create but that eludes its control.

"Mr. Ferriss’s first book, 'The 4-Hour Workweek,' sold nearly a half-million copies in its original print edition, according to Nielsen BookScan. A follow-up devoted to the body did nearly as well. Those books about finding success without trying too hard were a particular hit with young men, who identified with their quasi-scientific entrepreneurial spirit.

"Signing Mr. Ferriss was seen as a smart choice by Amazon, which wanted books that would make a splash in both the digital and physical worlds. When the seven-figure deal was announced in August 2011, Mr. Ferriss, a former nutritional supplements marketer, said this was 'a chance to really show what the future of books looks like'.

"Now that publication is at hand, that future looks messy and angry. Barnes & Noble, struggling to remain relevant in Amazon’s shadow, has been emphatic that it will not carry its competitor’s books. Other large physical and digital stores seem to be uninterested or even opposed to the book. Many independent stores feel betrayed by Mr. Ferriss, whom they had championed. They will do nothing to help him if it involves helping a company they feel is hellbent on their destruction."

You can read the whole story here.
KC's View:
We took note of these issues a few weeks ago when we wrote about how a Penny Marshall memoir published by Amazon was being spurned by other booksellers, turning what was expected to be a best-seller into an also-ran.

This is incredibly important for any retailer competing with Amazon to remember - that they have to exploit points of differentiation, find products and services to offer that Amazon cannot, and try to play a different game than Amazon does.

The American humorist Finley Peter Dunne once said that "politics ain't beanbag."

Neither is retail.