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Customers Looking for Unique Shopping Environment, Experience

One of the year-end phone conversations I had in preparation for the article that appeared here a few days ago lasted about half an hour. The store owner and manager explained to me that increasingly, his customers were regional, not local. “People are looking for a different presentation; they want to see things they’ve never seen before;” he said.

This weekend, we went to pay our respects to the soon-to-close World’s Biggest Bookstore, one block north of Yonge and Dundas in Toronto. I had great memories of browsing shelves in this store while a student at the University of Toronto, and seeing the mix of remainders and new releases often side-by-side; not to mention the whole outlet store feel of the place.

Instead, we were greeted with what was simply a large Indigo or Chapters store; and really, large doesn’t matter in this comparison a whole lot, when you consider that Chapters and Indigo are big box stores by definition.

Disappointing doesn’t begin to describe how I felt.

My wife, who doesn’t have the same history with World’s Biggest as I do said, “It’s easy to see why they’re closing.” There was nothing here that one couldn’t see at a regular Chapters. A few sections, like Fiction, obviously represented Chapters on steroids, but there was nothing truly remarkable going on here,and when you consider the value of the land (probably destined for condos) the whole thing might be considered a waste of space.

My anonymous telephone friend had spoken about the need for customers to shop in a fresh environment and have a unique shopping experience involving new products. It’s hard to offer that if your retail agenda is so driven by uniform planograms in each store that one can stare at the shelves and not necessarily know if they’re in Ottawa, Moncton or Winnipeg.

Questions to ask yourself (that I need to ask myself as well) —

  • What part of your store is eye-catching, memorable, unique?
  • What product line do you carry that you feel is unique to your store?
  • What products in your store would stand out even if another similar store opened next door?
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