At a Digital Book World panel called "Will Bars Save Bookstores?", panelists, among them, American Booksellers Association CEO Oren Teicher, bookseller Jessica Bagnulo and IPG CEO Joe Matthew, cracked jokes ("retailers turn to drink") but used the opportunity to examine a wave of new strategies behind a resurgent independent bookselling sector.
Teicher called the booze in bookstores theme, “a euphemism for all things smart entrepreneurial spaces are doing to attract consumers.” And it's not just beverages, Teicher said. Bookstores, he said, are running summer camps, offering dance classes, hosting travel events, “hundreds of innovative things that are helping stores thrive in a very competitive environment.”
Those new initiatives have led to more new bookstores being opened than closed, Teicher noted. And older viable bookstores are finding new and younger owners and expanding their size.
Bagnulo, co-owner of the Greenlight Bookstores in Brooklyn, which recently opened a second store, noted that the growth of independent bookstores is part of the “shop local” movement that has grown to support all kinds of local businesses, not just bookstores. There was also much discussion of B&N's new concept stores which will include full restaurants that serve beer and wine.
Matthews said that the strategy of offering beer and wine is part of an ongoing trend of “disruption” that began with coffee in bookstores and is happening in other businesses. In an environment where e-books, online retailing and less time for reading is challenging business of physical bookstores, Matthews said, “we need experimentation. This is an effort to drive traffic and keep consumers in the store. You can’t download a cocktail.”