Why did the number of independent bookstores increase during the “retail apocalypse”?


Between 2009 and 2015 the number of independent bookstores increased by 35%. This happened during the so-called “retail apocalypse”, which has caused amazon to clash with every retail outlet in the us.
For years, we’ve heard that independent bookstores are in bad shape. This is not entirely true. NPR’s padihirsch has more on Planet Money.
PADDY HIRSCH, wired: independent bookshops – perhaps you remember them – usually small shops owned by a small group of members (usually a family). Usually a cat can roam freely. Back in the late ’70s, almost every American bookstore was independent. This is a golden age of bibliography. But then…
RYAN RAFFAELLI: one of the first challenges they faced was the introduction of a mall chain.
HIRSCH: that’s Ryan Raffaelli. He is a professor at harvard business school and author of the upcoming independent bookstore business.
RAFFAELLI: so we can think of walden’s B Dalton, and they’re opening new stores every week across the country. And this continued into the 1990s, along with scenes like Barnes&Noble and Borders.
HIRSCH: independent bookstores are getting harder. A big box store will come to your town. It will have thousands of cheap books. There will be a sofa cafe. It’s often just a matter of time before a neighborhood bookstore closes. It is hard to imagine how it would make independent shops worse. But in 1995, things got worse. Amazon opened. The number of independent booksellers has fallen by 40% in the past five years, as people opt for online shopping instead of shopping.
RAFFAELLI: and then in 2007, you had another shock, which was the launch of the Kindle, and many analysts are now saying that the book is probably still in print.
HIRSCH: the end of the print book – but something very interesting happens next. The number of independent bookstores in the United States has increased.
RAFFAELLI: from 2009 to today, their Numbers have increased by almost 40%.
HIRSCH: that’s right. The phoenix rises from the ashes. According to the American booksellers association, there are 2,321 independent bookstores in the United States. There are other things to prepare for this recovery. First, when amazon appeared, the independents were indeed destroyed. But businesses – big box stores and chain stores – they’re really crushed. For example, the border is completely out of business. So it fills the gap.
RAFFAELLI: you start to see is a branch of the industry, in this industry, the indians represents this highly experience, consumers have the opportunity to participate in a series of very personal dimension, while amazon is true, I can quickly find something in the price of the cheapest?
HIRSCH: the thing is, it’s not easy to start or operate an independent bookstore. Books have a small profit margin, and it’s hard to find a store that can support rents in this community. But Ryan Raffaelli says retail developers are starting to look at independent bookstores in different ways.
RAFFAELLI: real estate developers are actually willing to offer discounts for independent bookstores because independent bookstores are a sign of authenticity. You know, we often have anchors – a traditional mall, you want a sears or JC penney. But in the center of the city, the area of community development that we see is actually quite large, and the bookstore is actually an integral part of that.
HIRSCH: independent bookstores hold the stores together – in other words, independent bookstores are advancing rapidly into places that once threatened to be destroyed. They have returned to dancing on the ashes of Borders and Waldenbook. Now, this is a good turning point. NPR’s padi hirsch.


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