When I got to Boswell today (I'm on the closing shift tomight so things were already bustling when I arrived), Jane asked me if I had read Faye Wetzel's column in the Journal Sentinel. I said I had not, and so she put a hard copy on my desk. Yes, a piece of paper, not a link.
Wetzel owns the two Faye's stores in Mequon in Brookfield, both not too far from branches of the old Schwartz Bookshop. She talks about what it's like to go into the store and see the jacket you just ordered on display. In particular in this vignette, the customer tells the Faye already bought it online. "I smile, but my heart sinks."
But then she goes on to note that she buys a lot from Amazon, and switched all her reading over to a Kindle. "It is something I could have never envisioned a decade ago when I would while away an entire Sunday afternoon at a local Schwartz bookstore." As Wetzel notes, "I did my part in contributing to the demise of the neighborhood bookstore."
I like this column. It's honest and shows that all our decisions have consequences, and yet, we don't always make the decision that puts a halo on our head. And Faye seems to be cognizant that the same decisions she made to move her business away from a local bookstore could someday lead to the end of her own business. It's a bit different, because high-end clothing manufacturers control prices more closely than books. In short, what she's saying is "be cognizant of your choices."
I've always said to customers that we'll be here as long as you want us, but I already know that not everyone wants us. After all, we're not Milwaukee's favorite bookstore (per the Shepherd Express poll) and if you looked at where the Milwaukee area bought books, we'd probably come in something like 17th, after Barnes and Noble, Half Price, Target, Walmart, Costco, a whole mess of websites but mostly Amazon, and who knows where else.
But I never said we were going to be everyone's favorite bookstore. If you're everything to everyone, you might wind up being nothing to nobody. Sure we get showroomed* like any other retailer, but we have enough customers who put their money where their mouths are, such that at least for this holiday season, we're in good shape.
And for that, we are very, very grateful.
So tomorrow is the American Express promotion for Small Business Saturday. In typical fashion, I may not have signed up for the promotion, but you can still take advantage of the sentiment. Maybe next year!
*Showrooming is when someone browses a bricks-and-mortar retailer, only to spend their money online. Sometimes folks actively place the order while they're still in the retailer. I say this like you don't know what I'm talking about!
Hello. This is my blog for the Boswell Book Company, located on the East Side of Milwaukee at 2559 N. Downer Avenue at Webster Place, Milwaukee WI 53211.
Our store phone: (414) 332-1181.
My email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
General email: email@example.com.
Our Hours: Monday-Saturday, 10 AM-9 PM.
Sunday hours, 10 AM-6 PM