Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Specialist stores the answer to Nick Sherry’s dire prediction for book chains

By Michelle Hammond - Startupsmart - Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Small Business Minister Nick Sherry has sparked outrage with his prediction that general bookstores will be absent from the market within five years, but some industry groups say an opportunity exists for start-ups to specialise as the sector shrinks.
Earlier this week, Sherry told a conference that online shopping would wipe out general bookstores within five years, expecting only specialist players in capital cities to survive.
The comment sparked anger in the industry, which has seen the collapse of REDGroup Retail; the parent company of bookstore chains Angus & Robertson and Borders.

Jon Page, president of the Australian Booksellers Association, said the minister had demonstrated a “distinct lack of understanding about the Australian book industry”.

“I doubt he’s even looked at any industry stats to make a remark like that,” Page says.

Daniel Jordan, managing director of Collins Booksellers, also dismissed the comment, stating: “To assume that bricks-and-mortar retailing won’t exist in five years is just plain wrong.”

Small business lobbyist Peter Strong – who also owns and runs an independent bookstore – agrees independents should embrace the challenges presented by increasing online sales and the rise of eBooks.
“We will have a decrease in bricks-and-mortar, but nobody knows what that means. Plenty of people still love their bookshops and love dealing with human beings,” Strong told SmartCompany.

Strong says independent retailers will also pick up additional customers as a result of REDGroup Retail’s collapse.
“A lot of the [independent] booksellers are quite excited about it. Small businesses can respond quite quickly [to consumer trends], which is exciting not only for the business but for the consumer,” he says.
“We believe there is [enough demand]. We just need to work out how many operators will be able to survive in the marketplace. We’re all on a trip of discovery at the moment.”

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