Tuesday, 7 June 2011

At the bookshop

yesterday I was asked me if I had been into Big W lately. No, I had not. It is one of those places of last resort for me. It is big, too big. It is also owned by greedy people.
They want to sell everything and yet not actually sell anything at all. Let me explain. Big W has books on shelves. You can buy them. It has knitting yarn on shelves. You can buy it. It has shoes on racks. You can buy them. I could go on. It is a place of convenience. It is cheap(er) than speciality shops.
There is a darn good reason for this. They do not actually "sell". They provide storage space. You go along. You choose. You do not get advice.
There is also a limited choice. It may be a popular choice, or what they choose to make popular. It may not be the best but it will be cheap(er).
The shoes will not usually be leather and will fall apart sooner but they will be bought by desperate parents of growing children. They will not be fitted properly but they will, usually, "do for a while".
The knitting yarn tends to be cheap and nasty acrylic in football colours. I am not sure who buys it but people must.
The books in Big W are mostly paperbacks. They will be by "popular" authors - or authors they have chosen as "popular". They muscled in on Harry Potter and almost ruined the local indie in the process. The Twilight series get sold there. Some of their offerings are backlist, bought at rock bottom price and sold on at cut rates. People think they are getting a bargain. Some of them may well be remainders. The author will not be getting anything at all.
But, recently, Big W went even lower. They went off to an indie (not mine) and bought a trolley load of books. They came back and put those books in a trolley with the docket. They put another trolley load of the same books next to it and another docket - claiming that this was what you would pay for them in Big W. There was almost $200 difference in price over all - in their favour.
They did this at a time when Borders closed its doors - along with a number of other bookshops. The indie they bought from had just been bought by a family from the chain that was also closing bookshops around the country. They were, and still are, trying desperately hard to make a go of it. It was a deliberate act of sabotage. My guess is that the indie in question will be gone within a year. They will not survive these tactics. Big W can afford to "apologise". The damage has been done.
It suggested to customers that the service Big W was offering was as good and diverse as the indie but much cheaper. It was not and it is not. They will however sell on price rather than quality - like the shoes and the knitting yarn.
Price does not make a good book. It is the contents which count.


Anonymous said...

This is so true ... especially the 'what they choose to make popular'. We have shops like this near us and they always make me anxious, I'd hate to think of a high street filled with them.

Nicola Morgan said...

What an incredibly low thing to do! And the customers won't realise that cutting the price of books directly affects the (usually lowly paid) writer, as well as damaging the indie shop with all its expertise and ability to inspire and guide readers.

Anonymous said...

Lower than a snake's navel. Chris

Rachel Fenton said...