Well, look what’s back on a street corner in NYC.
Before there was a Starbucks on every corner…there was a Barnes & Noble on every corner.
The ubiquitous bookstore was not only a bookstore. You could get coffee, get a gift for a friend’s bday (on your way to said friend’s bday party because the stores were open late), and you could even get a girl’s number (it was quite the pick-up place…”Do you come to the Franco-Prussian War aisle often?”).
What happened to Barnes & Noble?
First, Starbucks became the place to drink coffee and meet people (“Your latte looks sooooo familiar”).
But what really put the B&Ns out of business was…say it with me…Amazon.
And since then, Amazon has not only put beaucoup de bookstores out of business, but they’ve bankrupted tons of other brick and mortar establishments as well.
That kind of retail is dead, right? No one would ever open up a bookstore now. Who would rent a physical space to sell something that you can get online?
Well, someone did.
Say it with me…Amazon.
There is now a physical Amazon bookstore at Columbus Circle, with another set to open on 34th St. and a whole bunch of others in states all over the country. The stores feature some of the most popular reads from the plethora of data and customer reviews on the Amazon.com website. You can browse, buy, and even say hi to the person perusing that book on early Hungarian cabinet making a few stacks away.
But why…why…why would a company whose whole business model was to crush the traditional retail establishments, open some up?
Because no one else would.
Business is about being unique. It’s about being where other people aren’t. There still is and always has been a demand for bookstores. It’s just that the market couldn’t support the number of stores that existed after the online shopping revolution. So they closed. Leaving a space for Amazon to come back in and dominate the market.
The lesson for all of us, as theatrical entrepreneurs, is two fold:
- Make sure your shows or your services aren’t appearing at a time when the market is flooded (for example, I’m starting to think the jukebox musical is getting close to the saturation point). What was once unique may not be so special anymore.
- When someone tells you something isn’t working anymore, that just may be a time to check it out (direct mail?). People are sheep. If the shepherds are all saying there’s no grass in a meadow…it just means there’s not enough grass for the whole flock. And people will listen and go try something else (and flood another market). But there’s probably plenty of grass for you to go stuff your little woolly face. And you’ll own the whole flockin’ place.
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