Friday, December 16, 2005

Failure of Media Play Lesson #1

It was recently announced that Musicland group is closing all 61 Media Play locations across the country. For those of you who are not familiar with Media Play, they are a large big box store focusing on Music, Books, Movies and Software.

I first encountered Media Play when I moved to a new city in 1997. Where I lived before we had Hastings which was similar to Media Play so I started going into Media Play. Until a few years ago they had a large magazine selection, music selection, and book area. In the last five years they have added more software, added games, and made the other departments smaller.

A few weeks ago I went into Media Play and was not impressed by what I saw. The store had several failings and you could clearly see why the store was faltering and why ultimately they are being closed.

While many of its failings ultimately come from not finding its niche, I will also discuss other reasons for its demise that lead up to the lack of a niche and how you can avoid the problems.

Lesson #1 on Media Play's failing was that it tried to be all things to all people. When I first went in there they had a fantastic selection of books and magazines. But, as the market changed their answer was to add items and cut down on their other departments and instead of having some very good departments with good selection, they had many departments with small selections. The last time I went into Media Play a couple of weeks ago I found nothing I was looking for so I went elsewhere.

So lesson number 1: Do not try to be all things to all people.

Friday, December 02, 2005

Small Booksellers Missing the Boat?

In my local newspaper this past week there was another article about a book store that is closing its doors. Like many small retailers there has been hard times for small book sellers with the onslaught of Borders, Barnes and Noble, Wal-Mart, Amazon and others.

You would think that writers would be concerned about the small stores going out of business because the market is being taken over by discounter who sell books for less. However, what I hear most from these writers is that the small book stores have done little for writers so there is a lack of caring.

What do the writers mean when they say small book sellers have done little for them? In most cases when writers are first getting started, they have a difficult time getting the word out about their books. The small book sellers have done little to promote these up and coming authors. Some of these small operations only focus on the bigger writers and some see working with writers as just too difficult.

Meanwhile the writers tell me that companies such as Amazon have done to promote them and get publicity for them than any of the small booksellers.

So in other words the small booksellers are missing the boat. I know of several small independent booksellers that are doing great business and having no trouble competing against the big boys. How are they doing it? They are working with these new and local writers promoting them, having book signing, and readings. While it may take more effort to promote these new authors, the payoffs can be huge as they will be loyal to that bookseller and help them out. In addition it gives great publicity for the book seller to show that they are working with local and new authors trying to get their careers off the ground.

Small booksellers need to work harder getting people in the doors and promoting new talent is the perfect way to get the walk in traffic. A person may come in to hear a writer talk or read but then some other title catches their eye on the way through the store and there is another sale.

Yes, its takes effort but in today's business world you must work smarter to stay in business. Build relationships that will benefit both parties. After all, that new author you help out may be the Rowling and will tell the world where they got their help starting out.