Borders Reducing its Borders
Bookstores merchandise most books with the spine facing out. Only new releases and best-sellers get the front-face treatment. Merchandising books with the spine facing out allows the retailer to stock more books. However, front-facing books gives a book greater visibility and results in higher sales.
Borders recently tested a front-facing display strategy where more books were stocked with their covers, not spines, facing customers. Sales increased by 9.0%. The strategy was so successful, all Borders bookstores will be switching to the front-facing strategy in the next couple of weeks.
The drawback to a front-facing strategy is Borders will have to reduce its inventory by 5%-10%. This means the typical Borders store will reduce its inventory anywhere from 4,700 books to 9,300 books. Execs at Borders aren’t too concerned about the loss of inventory since many of the books they stock only sell one copy per year.
On the other hand, Barnes & Noble has no intentions of reducing its inventory of books. (The typical Barnes & Noble stocks 125,000 to 150,000 at its stores.)
Borders did some customer research at its front-facing prototype store and learned customers perceived Borders as having more books, not fewer, with this new display strategy. (Interesting.)
Bold move by Borders. We’ll have to see if this works in the short-term AND the long-term.
FOR MORE: Read this Wall Street Journal article.
FOR EVEN MORE: Seth Godin riffs on how Borders strategy is counter to the Long Tail. Joe Wikert, an executive at book publisher Wiley, fears customers will leave empty-handed because of the reduced inventory.