According to an article in Salon, the American Booksellers Association reported an increase in the number of independent bookstores in the U.S. in the last five years. This is certainly surprising news considering the seemingly increasing popularity of e-books and the convenience and low prices of Amazon.
The article claims that two things are driving the increase in indie bookstores:
- a desire for authentic local experiences
- social media marketing
The “local movement” of the last few years has done wonders for our communities. People care about consuming local food and using local services. When local businesses thrive, so do communities. In my own ‘hood, neighbours banded together to form a community association — DECA — that has brought new life to the area by offering incentives to local businesses and by creating and promoting local events like farmers’ markets.
Even big builders have seen the error of creating unwalkable suburban neighbourhoods where driving to large chain stores is the only option for residents. People want to live near hubs offering something local and unique, and builders now attempt to emulate just that.
As for social media, the Salon article rightly points out that small businesses thrive when their customers create word-of-mouth buzz. Sophisticated consumers don’t trust advertising, but they do trust their friends — real or online — who let them know where the good restaurants are, what pubs have the best craft brews, and which new books they can’t put down.
Smartphones, of course, allow us to find the best stores and restaurants in any ‘hood in which we find ourselves. No longer is there a need to play it safe by sticking to the big chains. A unique small business with great online ratings can be found in seconds.
Authenticity and word of mouth: sounds awfully old-fashioned, doesn’t it?