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Hi, I’m Kevin Coupe and this is MNB Radio, available on iTunes and brought to you this week by Webstop, experts in the art of retail website design.

The Chicago Tribune had a report the other day about how the troubled Borders bookstore chain has unveiled a program that “invites book club groups to convene at its cafe spaces instead of in club members' homes. The step is geared toward helping the money-losing bookstore chain drum up sales and reshape itself into a local gathering place instead of a faceless superstore.”

According to the story, “Signs and posters telling shoppers to bring their book group to the store have gone out from corporate headquarters in Ann Arbor, Mich., to Borders' 507 outposts.”

As the Tribune notes, the book selling business is an increasingly brutal one, with the nation’s two major chains - Barnes & Noble and Borders - increasingly under pressure from the likes of, Walmart and Costco. Here’s something I didn’t know - both Barnes & Noble and Borders have finished each year since 2002 with fewer stores than they started the year with.

In other words, the prognosis ain’t good.

However, I have to say that I like the book club gathering idea. It is a smart approach to creating some measure of loyalty among shoppers. I think they could do more - like suggest that if all the members of the club buy their book at Borders, they can get free coffee during their meeting. Or offer better discounts to club members that book tables in advance.

The key here is to create a sense of community around a common purpose or theme, and then do everything possible that the retail entity has a role in that community. It is a good ideas for a bookstore, just as it would be a good idea for a drugstore to create an area where people with common medical issues could gather for support group meetings. Or supermarkets to create an area for people to chat about health and nutrition issues, or to learn how to cook.

There is no unassailable business model. There are only temporary differential advantages. It may be that Borders has waited too long, and that it won;t be able to pull out of the sales tailspin in which it finds itself.

But that’s a mistake that other retailers in other venues should not make.

For MNB Radio, I’m Kevin Coupe.
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