Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Axis of Structural Decline - Tower Records, Blockbuster and now Barnes & Noble?

"First Tower Records, then Blockbuster, now this [Barnes & Noble].”

This is a quote of Dora Schulman, a shoe saleswoman who referred to the
upcoming closing of B&N store at 66th Street and Broadway in Manhattan.

Ms. Schulman, who was quoted in a New York Times article about the store's closing, was talking about the stores on her route that were closing, but unintentionally she also created what w
e can describe as Axis of Structural Decline.

Tower Records filed for bankruptcy in 2004. On December 22, 2006, the last Tower Records store in New York City was closed down. Why? NPR tried to explain in a report in 2009:

"Folks would say, 'Well, wasn't this all about Napster?' And I'm like, 'Not so much as the fact that I think Tower just sort of lost relevancy,' " Crupnick [Russ Crupnick, who analyzes music retail for a firm called NPD] says. Big-box stores undercut Tower in pricing CDs. Baby Boomers stopped buying new music. Young people stopped caring about liner notes and owning a physical product. And Crupnick says that, by the late 1990s, Tower Records was no longer a music lover's mecca. It was just a higher-end Sam Goody. "They became very ordinary, in terms of their expansion plans," Crupnick says. "And arguably, as they went to about 90 stores, they lost that whole idea of being special."

Blockbuster, as was reported by is planning to file bankruptcy:

"Just as video stores once failed to compete with Blockbuster’s larger inventory, the retail chain now can’t compete with Amazon, Netflix, on-demand cable-satellite, and other means of delivering video entertainment that don’t involve going to a store".

So is Barnes & Noble about to fail just like Tower Records and Blockbuster Video did? Well, B&N definitely suffer from the same illnesses: they slowly lose their relevancy and their added value for customer, they face fierce competition, they have trouble to adopt to the new reality of growing online sales and e-book dominance. Still, unlike Tower Records and Blockbuster they're not out of business and they are still in a position where they can influence the way their future will look like.

Right now it doesn't seem like they have a plan, so if nothing happens don't be surprised if instead the old Axis of Evil, we'll have the new Axis of Structural Decline.

My suggestion to B&N? Here's what we think should become of of B&N brick and mortar bookstores to help them become again an asset for the company -

More articles on the future of bookstores can be found at /bookstores_future.asp

Raz @ Eco-Libris

Eco-Libris: promoting sustainable reading!