A few weeks ago, a meeting was held at the Foyles bookshop in Charing Cross Road in London, one of the most famous and established bookshops in the city. The meeting attracted little attention, but I believe it is worth consideration. Various people in the trade discussed an issue of very real concern: the future of bookshops faced with the inexorable progress of the e-book. There are now more people than ever who prefer the e-book over the printed page, due to its practicality and convenience, or who buy printed books online rather than in store.
This issue interests me because it affects not only bookshops but also traditional sales channels which, in one way or another, have to come to terms with the development of online business. Basically, how can a business model that uses the physical store as the main way of attracting customers survive?
I believe the answer can only be for the shop to evolve further, to become something other than just a place where you buy or sell things. It has to evolve to offer a service based on a more specialist knowledge of the customer, as well as a shopping experience that involves the consumer on both an aesthetic and an emotional level. This idea is also at the centre of the project for re-launching the Playlife brand which, not by chance, is based on the definition of a new concept store.
To return to bookshops, I believe their dilemma is more universal than it might seem: the market of publishing is certainly among the most exposed, but the evolution of methods of consumption is probably destined to affect many other sectors. Stores – from bookshops to boutiques – will increasingly become places where consumers can go back to being considered individuals, people.