Not too long ago Borders and Barnes and Noble sat on top of the book selling world and the world trembled.
On February 16th Borders filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy and announced the closure of almost 30% of its retail outlets.
As a Catholic retailer, what can you take away from this disaster to help your business?
Borders has a history of getting blindsided by technology. As early as 2001 Borders was already trying to play catchup with technology as e-commerce really became a major source of retail revenue. Borders announced in August of 2001 that it was throwing in the towel on its own e-commerce platform and was teaming with Amazon to run its site. It’s a bad sign when you have to cede the battlefield to a company that had been operating in the red since its founding and wouldn’t turn its first quarterly profit until later that year. In 2007 Borders took back its e-commerce site.
In 2009 Borders announced a partnership with Kobo for e-book distribution. Again, Borders wasn’t a leader, it was playing catchup. In this case, catchup was to a major retail book seller in Canada. In 2010 Borders announced a huge offering of free e-books as part of its digital services but upon a cursory review it turns out that they had just repackaged all of the public domain books already produced by Google.
So here we are in 2011. Borders never produced an e-book reader like the Nook or Kindle but you could argue that since they invested in Kobo that they really did have a reader of their own but I had never seen them promote it.
For the last ten years Borders has been a company of “Wow, we really need to do that, too.” instead of an innovator. Instead of leading the digital revolution they were caught up in its riptides and it sunk them.
As a Catholic retailer you may be saying, “Well, that’s great but as a small Catholic shop how am I supposed to be an innovator when Borders, a multi-billion-dollar company failed?” It’s really very simple. You need to innovate in your store. I know one Catholic store owner who has been selling mp3s in her store for years by purchasing them for customers upon request. You could try contacting your music suppliers to see if you could buy permission to sell flash drives full of music. You can start talking to other Catholic stores about ways to work together to make technology improvements across the industry. Granted, you probably aren’t going to be able to create your own e-book reader but you can’t sit back and hope that the digital wave will miss you. It won’t.