Wednesday, December 10, 2008

What Are They Thinking?

I know that these decisions are made by many smart business men and women with MBAs up the ying yang who know a heck a lot more about marketing and retail store placement than I do (despite my BS in Marketing/Advertising), but I just have to ask. What the hell are the Barnes and Noble Powers That Be thinking?

They are moving all the freestanding stores to the mall. And these examples don't include my local B&N's recent move across the street to Oak Brook mall or the move scheduled in April by the B&N where my mother has worked for ten years to the mall a mile down the road. Everywhere I go, the cozy little all-by-itself B&N store has shut its doors in favor of the behemoth mall version close by.

Now, I'm sure this decision to do away with freestanding B&N stores in favor of attaching themselves to the new "shopping campuses" that are growing off the ends of all the malls these days has something to do with increasing foot traffic. In theory, people who go to the mall to buy other things or even just to wander around aimlessly as a part of the time honored American tradition of shopping-as-entertainment, will hopefully meander into the handy-dandy B&N and pick up a title or two. I mean, hey, you have an hour or six to kill. Might as well spend your money on a book as the latest useless gadget from Sharper Image or $50 tank top from Abercrombie and Fitch, right?

Except, what about those of us who...god, don't strike me dead...hate the mall? Those of us who would rather spend a Saturday afternoon getting a root canal over the prospect of negotiating mall traffic, gangs of teens, and the limited seating at the Food Court? If I have to go to the mall because I need something I simply cannot find anywhere else or need faster than I can get by ordering online, I park by the pertinent store, make my purchase, and escape as quickly as possible.

I already feel sorry for my daughter as she enters those tween and teen years because this is one mom who hates to shop. I'll drop her off at the mall, but I won't be cruising it with her.

So having the only B&N outlet located at the mall means...I won't go there.

To be fair, I did give it a shot.

Our B&N moved on November 11th. Yesterday, I decided to check out the new store - at the mall. I figured things wouldn't be that bad at noon on a Tuesday, as compared to any time on a Saturday or Sunday. Shored up with false optimism, I gritted my teeth and entered the mall parking lot. And I drove up one lane, looking for a parking spot. And then down another lane. And then up a third lane. And back down the first lane. After ten minutes of looking - and I'd reduced my location requirements down to simply being within visual distance of the store - I finally settled on the only parking spot left. I sludged about a quarter mile through ice-rain and mush. By the time I actually arrived at the door, I was freezing, wet, and beyond irritated.

And you know what? Only about 1% of the owners of all of those cars were actually shopping at B&N. The rest were at one of the gazillion other mall stores.

Yes, the new building is gorgeous, with a beautiful atrium that will let in all kinds of natural light when the sun actually shines. It's got two stories, lots of check out counters, and a huge Starbucks cafe. It has a music and movie section (the old store was too small), and everything is fresh and new and shiny. It's lovely.

Know what? I don't care. I won't go there because parking is such a god awful headache. When I want a book - for myself or a gift or just to browse because that's how I perform my shopping-as-entertainment ritual - I want to go to the bookstore. I don't want to go to the mall.

So, I'm going to tell my mother to let my B&N membership lapse when it comes due for renewal. She always renews it for me for my birthday, and I love the savings I get which at the very least pay the sales tax. I won't be needing it anymore.

I'll do my book shopping either online at Amazon or at the Borders across the street from the mall.

The Borders that is large, with plenty of check out counters and an extremely sufficient non-Starbucks cafe. The Borders with a movie and a music section, the Borders that isn't quite as new and shiny but is neat and well organized and always has the books I'm looking for.

The Borders with its very own expansive parking lot where I never have a problem parking, even at Christmas time. Sure, when it's a busy time of year I may have to walk a few extra parking rows to get to the building, but at least I understand because my fellow parkers are shopping at the same store as I am. They aren't parking there so they can catch the Midnight Madness sale at Macy's with a quick stop by Auntie Anne's for a cinnamon sugar pretzel.

The Borders that isn't at the mall.

I sure hope that casual mall walker who may or may not drop in to maybe or maybe not buy a book is worth losing my guaranteed sale when I come looking with a purpose. Because I won't be there.

I wonder if those B&N business geniuses took the course that talked about the concept of a bird in the hand being worth two in the bush?