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Indigo becoming a model for bookstores as lifestyle emporia?

Publishers and other industry stakeholders reacted with predictable dismay when Indigo Books & Music announced changes to its product mix earlier this year, decreasing floorspace for books in favour of lifestyle products and giftware. However, an article in the Sydney Morning Herald indicates that Indigo’s new business model may be a trailblazer as bookstore chains react to tectonic shifts in the market caused by e-books.

The SMH article refers to a study commissioned by the Australian government’s Book Industry Study Group, which suggests that while print and e-books might co-exist in the short term, the long-term “cannibalisation” of print will require bookstores to rethink the way they do business if they wish to remain profitable. The report, by PricewaterhouseCoopers, points to Indigo as a possible model to follow. From the SMH:

While there was no ”silver bullet” for booksellers, the report singles out Indigo, Canada’s largest bookseller, which promotes books as a ”lifestyle,” not a product. It sells giftware, children’s toys, video games, music, gourmet food and even flowers and is an example of an independent bookseller leveraging people’s affection for books.

Jane Turner, owner of Bondi’s Gertrude & Alice Cafe Bookstore, said it had featured a cafe since it opened 11 years ago.

”We just put in a little wine licence about six months ago, because you’re constantly trying to do things to look after the customers that you have,” she said.

The report is not likely to boost the spirits of booksellers who continue to see their bottom lines eroded by the twin forces of big-box chain stores and the shift to digital bookselling. Just today, Q&Q reported on the incipient demise of the Bookery, Newfoundland’s remaining independent bookstore, which its owner blamed on a combination of big-box stores and people “coming in with their iPhones, taking a picture of a book, and ordering it online.”