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If Barnes & Nobel Can’t Compete With B&N They’ll Follow Borders Lead

Retail is feeling it from every side. The internet has made it so easy to price shop and browse from your home without ever going into a brick and mortar store and even if you go into a store every phone can give you price comparisons on the go. But with the holidays coming up I wanted to do the right thing and support an actual store. So I went to that crazy store called Barnes & Noble where people get a coffee, read the magazines and leave without buying anything. I wanted to go old school and browse some books and toys for my kids . While I was there I  couldn’t locate a book I was looking for – they only had it in paperback but I wanted a hardcover so I pulled out my phone and of course, there it was on OK no problem, I can get that book online. No biggie. Of course, that made me take the stack of books I was holding and hit the search button and do a little real time scanning and the pricing was almost always given back automatically. Except that if I buy it online at I get the same exact book I’m holding for some percentage off – often above 20%. And it’s free shipping. In fact, in NYC it comes to you same day by a messenger for free.

I was expecting to lose a few dollars going to the store and I was accepting that in my head but as I stood there and I realized I was losing over $25 for books I actually didn’t need yet (since they’re holiday gifts) and I could get them the same day if I order it online in any event…well I did what was rational and ordered online. If Barnes & Noble was offering prices that compete with then I would have pulled the trigger. And that’s accepting the fact that Amazon often beats (accept then you need to have Prime shipping or else the ‘free’ means they wait 4 days to begin the shipping process to really teach you a lesson).

Bottom line is that brick and mortar stores need to learn from their online affiliates and compete in todays real time price comparing world. They don’t need to beat the web. They still have an experience factor that deserves a premium. But if they’re going to get a large premium compared to their online site then they’re writing their own obituary and not learning the lessons of Borders (despite buying part of them).  At a minimum you have to go Best Buy style and offer in store pickup and give the same pricing store of web. Of course, Best Buy is also in trouble but that’s for another day…

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