Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Offline Retailers Missed Competitive Advantage


Yesterday - before I headed off to the gym - I thought I would quickly swing by the book shop to pick up the latest autobiography of Seb Coe. Normally I would just order this hassle free via Amazon or Bol.com and patiently wait a couple of days until it arrives in my postbox.

But this time I really wanted immediate satisfaction – I was giving a lecture on Strategic Management and competitive Advantage on Thursday -  and I thought there would be some good stories in the book that I could use as examples in the class.

My first port of call was Selexys Scheltema book store in the center of town, I was first told that the book was on the first floor to the right. After searching and asking staff I left empty handed, it appears they had never had it in stock [despite the book being out months, and already in soft back].

Second port of call the American book, store same story, they haven’t stocked it. It was getting annoying, this was supposed to be a 5 minute errand to pick up a popular book.

Third port of call the English book store. The man at the desk pointed me in the direction of the biography section – I hunted high and low – without luck. Back to the front desk, only to hear “oh that book is in the sports section not biography”. Finally one hour and 15 minutes later I emerge from my third book store with my book.

Talk about “not quick satisfaction”! On a positive note, it meant I had another great excuse for keeping my workout at the gym short.

Don’t book stores realize that in order to compete with online book stores, they need to think about how they compete and do some things better? Perhaps stocking books that are very topical – we just had a Olympics right? And perhaps knowing where books are in their store so they can advise people accurately the first time? Or having a computer system that can accurately identify if the book is in the store.

It seems that physical book stores are actually only really for browsing on a rainy day, when you have time on your hands and no real aim or idea what book you want to buy – bad news for the book store owner, once the rain has stopped, many of these people leave empty handed after having fingered all the books and having read half of the content of the shelf.

I question whether these retailers can still compete with online book stores.

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