Saturday, July 28, 2007

Southern Indiana Votes With Its Feet

Those of us dedicated to the revitalization of Downtown know the drill. Sentimental attachment to concepts like smart growth, independent businesses that keep their investments and their profits in the community, businesses who support community instititutions because it is their community, are not always borne out by consumer behavior.

We aren't, however, in business as a public service. We don't concede that we are inconsequential niche businesses catering to a strictly bohemian clientele. We earnestly believe, and today few rational people argue the point, that any community that chooses to hollow itself out like a donut by turning away from a central core (downtown) where money has already been invested is making a foolish, shortsighted choice.

Destinations Booksellers is here to stay.

According to Nielsen Bookscan, traditional bookstores in the Louisville metro region sold some 17,000 copies of the final installment of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Southern Indiana, by population, represents about one-sixth of the region. We're getting reports that the average Wal-Mart sold 200 copies or so. Assume that Sam's Club, Target, Kroger, Meijer, and perhaps a few more chain retailers matched those sales at each of their SI locations.

Amazon sold about 1/4 of all copies during that first weekend (why? I have no idea!) where 8.2 million copies moved. Non-bookstores sold another 1.5 million.

One would think, then, that as the only independent full-service general bookstore in Southern Indiana, Destinations Booksellers would have sold about 1,000 copies. Price would not have been determinative, as our store had a price lower than any I've heard of. The allure of a party couldn't have been determinative. We are told that our two Harry Potter parties were surpassingly good, and they were free. Finally, those who absolutely had to have the book at midnight found (and this was true across the country at independent booksellers) that distribution involved no long lines. Our guests had all their books within seven minutes.

Destinations Booksellers sold 200 copies of Harry Potter that first weekend. I can only conclude one of two things. The first is that even after three years the residents of Southern Indiana are not aware that New Albany has a bookstore, and a good one. If that's the case, you can do something about that. Tell everyone you know why you rely on us to provide you everything a bookstore can.

The second one is far more troubling. It constitutes a referendum. 57 years without an independent bookseller has ingrained some bad habits and it seems that our neighbors have cast their vote to this question: Is it important for a community to have a full-service independent bookseller? The returns say that so far the answer from most is "No."

Thanks to all of you who have voted yes. I believe the realities will hit home in the near future. Advocacy for urbanized living, rational transportation policies, and other quality-of-life issues will dictate more localism. But most of all, it will be our continued service and improvement on delivery of that service that will ensure that our region will never again be underserved.

Sorry for the dearth of postings lately. This is the busiest time and ol' Harry did nothing to make it easier. I'm going to try to set aside a specific half-hour for posting each day, even if it's a quick hit observation. I'm still reading, gobbling up books at the pace of 2 to 3 a week, and those of you who visit the store haven't suffered. We're still hand-selling and offering recommendations - just not on the Web.

For those of you who subscribe to e-mail notices of new postings, I'm eager to know if you prefer that e-mail to be the complete posting or merely a notification that something new is up. Send an e-mail or post a comment here with your thoughts on that topic, this posting, or any books-related topic.


Veronica said...

Does that 200 include your pre-orders? If so, wow. If not, you have to figure your most loyal customers ordered their copies months ago. Seems you and Ann are doing everything right. I will do my part with my own purchases and word-of-mouth.

All4Word said...

Yes, V, that does include pre-orders, and about half did order them months ago. That really helped us to estimate the order and control our losses while still taking good care of everybody.