How many books should be facing out?

To boost sales, retailer Borders Group is taking a simple but radical approach, our colleague Jeff Trachtenberg reports in today’s Wall Street Journal.
Borders is increasing the number of books that it displays with the
cover facing out (rather than the spine facing out), even though this
shelf-space-eating approach will require cutting inventory at each
store up to 10%. Says one analyst: “Breakfast cereals are not stocked
end-of-box out. […] It’s a little bizarre that it’s taken booksellers
this long to realize that the point of self-service is to make the
product as tempting as possible.”

The link is here.  I understand the basic model as follows.  Superstores first invest in high inventory and a tony reputation.  You start thinking of them as "the place to go" for books, or in an earlier era, for music.  They then devote more and more of their space to non-book items.  The number of greeting cards and chocolates stocked by my Borders has risen steadily over time, as have the size of the coffee shops.  Having more books "face out" — at least they are books — is one of the lesser aspects of this more general problem.  It’s related to why most trendy restaurants peak in the first year and a half of their operation, followed by decline and then stagnation.  Once they have a high enough (and sticky enough) reputation, it is time to cash in and lower the quality of the product to the informed and more sophisticated buyers.


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