June 27, 2018

Another Bay Area Bookstore Bites The Dust ... But The Reason Likely Has Nothing To Do With Books

Bookstores ... the brick and mortar kind, anyway ... are becoming a relic of the past.  Both my husband Jim and I are avid readers, and miss browsing in our local Barnes and Noble.  Although located in upscale Walnut Creek, it closed over 2 years ago.  Amazon opened up a bookstore - Amazon Books - in Walnut Creek late last year, but the store is a joke.  With a very limited book and magazine selection, the store's focus is primarily on hawking Amazon electric gadgets.

And speaking of controller-of-the-world Amazon, we can't blame bookstore demise solely on the monstrous mega e-commerce retailer.  Plenty of other bad decisions are ingredients in bookstores' recipes for failure.

Here's one fresh example:  Oakland California's independently owned Laurel Book Store just announced it is closing at the end of August.  But don't blame the books or Amazon for the store's failure.  Rather, the blame - as it often does - appears to fall on the shoulder of bad business decisions by the book store's owner.

You see, Laurel Book Store owner Luan Stauss had successfully operated the bookstore for 13 years in Oakland's Laurel District.  The Laurel District has a diverse mix of culture, stores, and residents;  and a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly shopping district along MacArthur Boulevard.   In other words, a near perfect location for a bookstore.

But this wasn't enough for Ms Stauss.  She kept the store's name, but moved it to downtown Oakland near City Hall in October 2014.  Yep, near Oakland City Hall, the area that is the frequent site of protests and demonstrations, and is completely devoid of a vibrant, pedestrian-friendly shopping district.  Oh, and the store size was 4 times larger than the 900-square-foot store located in the Laurel District.

And what happened after the move to downtown Oakland? Failure from day 1.  No foot traffic. Few sales. Long time customers did not follow her to downtown Oakland. As Ms. Stauss stated to online publication Hoodline last hear, in spite of packed office buildings in the downtown area, "I'm on a block where there's not really a lot going on.  There's not a lot of retail."
Three simple things to consider when business owners make business decisions:
  1. Bigger isn't always better.
  2. For a brick and mortar business, it's location location location.
  3. If it aint' broke, don't fix it.
As a book and newspaper lover, It's disheartening to see yet another bookstore close.  But it appears Ms. Stauss gave little, if any, thought to the three topics above when she decided to move from 13 years of success in the Laurel District.
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About Mary Rae Fouts, EA

Mary Rae Fouts, EA provides tax, insurance consulting, and expert witness services to clients who have technical or complex concerns.  For more information about Mary and her professional services visit FoutsFinancialGroup.com.

Mary Rae Fouts

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