Discovery Adds Books to Mix
Karen Kawaguchi -- 4/17/00
The cable channel turned retailer finds the right blend with telescopes, aromatherapy...and books
Customers who walk into a Discovery Channel Store might be surprised to see so many books nestled beside all the intriguing products. In the mind-body-spirit section, one finds aromatherapy and massage oils, along with books such as Learn to Meditate by David Fontana (Chronicle) and Practical Feng Shui by Simon Brown (Sterling Publications), just two of about a dozen titles that provide advice on health, relaxation and spirituality. In other sections on travel, world cultures, history, transportation, nature, astronomy, weather and children's interests, there are similar juxtapositions of products and books. The stores sell books from Discovery Channel Publishing as well as other publishers.
|Although there are categorized book sections,|
books are liberally mixed in with
other products in Discovery Channel stores' displays.
As a nontraditional book retail outlet, Discovery Channel Stores thematically blend products with books, spurring sales by engaging the interest of customers with items and reading materials that may not be found easily in other stores.
Three years ago, Discovery Channel management decided it wanted retail visibility and acquired the Nature Company stores. Now there are approximately 160 Discovery Channel Stores, mostly in malls. Large stores have opened at the Sony Metreon in San Francisco, MCI Arena in suburban Washington, D.C., and Harborplace in Baltimore. There are also stores at airports and at two major rail hubs, Union Station in Washington, D.C., and Grand Central Terminal in New York City.
"All the stores sell books. Books are a very big part of the business," said Tracy Fortini, product development manager who oversees book buying for Discovery Channel Stores. Book sales now account for 15% of the stores' business. "Our target audience is families with school-age kids," Fortini told PW. The stores also try to achieve a balance in drawing men and women, carrying high-tech items and books, as well as focusing on the softer side, like mind-body-spirit.
"Customers particularly like to find books by theme," observed Kathy Cross, director, retail operations. "They also like the fact that many of our books and products tie into what they've seen on the Discovery Channel."
According to Fortini, all the stores carry the same core assortment of books, with some regional or local variations. The smaller airport stores sell a relatively high volume of books, and tailor the assortment according to travelers' tastes.
Recent top sellers at the Discovery Channel Stores include Century (Phaidon Press), J Garner's And the Crowd G s Wild (Sourcebooks) and David H. Levy's Skywatching (Time Life). Children's books account for 35% -40% of the store stock. Favorites include the Klutz Press books and products, such as The Klutz Yo-Yo Book, Nail Art and the journal My Life According to Me. Since these stores sell unusual merchandise and have well-organized displays, many parents shop there for gifts for children.
Fortini manages a centralized book buying department out of the Discovery Channel offices in Berkeley, Calif. Books are purchased directly from publishers, and through distributors only in emergencies. "Books have much lower margins than other products. We buy direct to save money," explained Fortini. "We don't discount, and we can't compete on selection. But we choose books that are hard to find in chains. We emphasize books and products that have educational integrity, especially for children. We also sell more illustrated and gift books than other types of stores."
Adventures in Publishing
As a way to further leverage the brand, the Discovery Channel began publishing its own books in 1999. According to Natalie Chapman, v-p, Discovery Channel Publishing, it publishes three lines of books--adult nonfiction, children's and travel.
For adult nonfiction, the Discovery Channel manages editorial development and has arranged with Random House to publish and distribute to the trade (bookstores, chains and wholesale distributors) under the Discovery Channel Books imprint. The Discovery Channel buys the books for sale in its stores. Other distribution channels are Discovery.com, catalogues and direct mail.
"Adult nonfiction books are linked to Discovery Channel programming, but can stand on their own," explained Chapman. Examples include Cleopatra's Palace and Napoleon's Lost Fleet, both dealing with underwater archeological expeditions. The Explore Your World Handbooks series, which provide information about birds, the night sky, weather and rocks/minerals, has also been successful.
In the travel category, Discovery Channel has partnered with Insight. "There is a good fit with the Discovery Channel brand. The books are very visual and have in-depth content," said Chapman. In addition to co-branding 100 Insight destination-based books last year, the two companies created a new series called Discovery Travel Adventures. Based on themes rather than specific destinations, these books follow the spirit of the themeline, "Explore a passion, not just a place," with titles such as Wild West, Haunted Holidays, Dinosaur Digs, Alaskan Wilderness, and American Safari.
For Discovery Kids Publishing, Dutton Books manages most of the product development and handles distribution to the trade and mass market. As with adult books, Discovery Channel buys back books for its own stores. Sticker Safari, Animal Saver Take-Action Pack: Tiger (or Wolf) and Earthquake! are among Discovery Kids' bestselling titles.
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