Big changes at Indigo Books & Music have left Canadian publishers nervously anticipating the fall and Christmas retail season.
Canada’s largest bricks-and-motor books retailer has shortened its minimum shelf life for books, taken control away from publishers regarding display space and introduced a marketing charge to publishers on every book sold.
“If there is a reduced space for books in the store, then the percentage of sales for books is going to be smaller,” Association of Canadian Publishers executive director Carolyn Wood said recently of the space issue alone.
“That does lead us to contemplate a downward spiral,” she said.
Indigo executives declined to be interviewed but increased book-trade competition is no secret. Costco and Wal-Mart stock bestsellers. Amazon sells books online. The e-book market is growing.
Indigo’s response in April was to hire a new president, former Urban Outfitters global president Tedford Marlow, and reposition itself from bookstore to — in chief executive Heather Reisman’s words — “the world’s first lifestyle store for booklovers.”
In Australia this month, a study commissioned by the government’s book industry strategy group lauded Indigo’s move “to market books as a lifestyle instead of a product,” the Sydney Morning Herald reported.
In Canada, publishers reacted more skeptically.
“It’s funny — they’ve created this thing that is undermining their core business,” House of Anansi president Sarah MacLachlin said of stocking lifestyle products and fewer books.
How Indigo decides to sell books profoundly affects Canadian publishers. In many Canadian towns the company stands as the sole local bookseller, manifesting as Indigo, Chapters and Coles.
Its toughest new rule involves a lower minimum shelf life, a measure currently suspended after an industry outcry.
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