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Are stores just bigger ads?

October 14, 2007

Borders Books and Music, one of the largest bookstore chains in the country is trying to find new sources of revenue by bringing new experiences to its stores.

These experiences include: mixing and burning CDs, creating photo books, building family trees, all at computer stations, the store is also retailing some electronic iPod related products.

They are testing the idea in 12 stores around the country. On paper it seems to make strategic sense, in reality, having visited one of the 12 stores, it’s harder to understand and its a good example of the problem with the retail experience these days.

There’s an old fashioned notion in the minds of consumers that stores are working hard on their behalf to create a nice “edited’ experience, of course, we know that this experience is fast becoming advertising based, with stores charging slotting fees and pay to play models for brands.

You can see this in the new Borders experience; it feels like a physical version of a catalog where companies have paid to be there. Part of the problem is that the chain has taken a lot of its inspiration from Apple and the emerging iPod economy, but it can’t provide an Apple-like in-store environment to pull the vision off.

Clearly, the senior management at Borders have a challenge on their hands, they can’t offer the breadth and selection of online players, or even some of the big box electronics retailers, not can they provide an Apple experience, but they also appear to want to generate additional revenue from suppliers.

I don’t just want to pick on Borders, because retail is rapidly shifting from an edited to an advertised experience. The consumer is oblivious to what’s going on behind the scenes, which is fine, until it starts to impact their experience and in the long-term, that could have serious implications for retailers.

Posted by Ed Cotton

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