How Does Chapters Compete With Amazon?

I’m not sure if the book store market near you is as cornered as the one I live in, but growing up near Winnipeg, MB, the monster chain of Chapters came in and destroyed the competition.  We used to have a nice little locally-run bookstore named McNally Robinson.  They were a large bookstore and were pretty well-known within Winnipeg.  We also used to have several of the other small chain bookstores such as Coles.  They simply couldn’t compete with the large-scale, volume-reduced prices that Chapters offered.  Is Chapters now being outdone at their own game?

We Had a Good Thing…

I was in the book giant yesterday doing a little holiday browsing (I often end up spending a lot of time in Chapters when my mom and significant other are shopping, I’m sure some of the gentleman out there can relate) when I realized it had been a long time since I had been in the store.  It brought back all kinds of feelings of nostalgia.  The service was still very good, the employees were very knowledgeable and helpful, the store was still very clean and well organized.  The inviting atmosphere was still there with pieces of furniture being setup for people to sample the latest literary offerings in, and a Starbucks in-store that not only served delicious (if overpriced) beverages, but also lent an air of “class” to the whole establishment.  Then I remembered why I hadn’t been there in so long, and I realized that none of that other cool “atmosphere-type” of stuff really mattered because of one thing – Amazon has much lower prices.

It’s Not You, It’s Me…

As a guy who likes to save money, but doesn’t do a lot of couponing, I have found online shopping to be my saving grace.  Even when Chapters has decent sales on, they still can’t compete with what Amazon brings to the table.  According to my calculations, I’m saving at least 50% when I order from the online champion.  Heck, Amazon is so confident that they have the lowest price, they’ll even show you the price of their competitors and then broker that deal for you!  If this isn’t enough, I get away with paying very little tax (because when I bring the books through the border, the officers rarely charge me duty, unless it is a very large order) on most of my orders, which is a big savings for Canadian.  While the staff at Chapters was helpful, the Amazon ratings and testimonial section is even more so.  At the click of the mouse I have access to a hundred “experts” who have broken down the strengths and weaknesses of a book according to their view.  The final nail in the coffin for businesses looking to compete for my book-buying dollar is that the savings Amazon presents for textbooks are so substantial that I find it easiest to tack on a few pleasure-reading options if I’m making an order anyway.  No one else can offer the hundreds of dollars in savings that alone provides every year.

 Let’s Stay Friends Though…

This got me to thinking about how Chapters, or any retail location at all, stays open anymore.  It doesn’t take a genius to figure out why internet shopping is so much cheaper than their brick-and-mortar counterparts.  Think about all the expenses your local bookstore has – rent, electrical, insurance, wages, benefits, payroll taxes etc.  Online companies have either none of these, or at least a very reduced level relative to the traditional store model.  They can then pass these savings on to the consumer.  I’m not sure why anyone would want to spend money on gas and the inevitable meal out, only to deal with hordes of people, and then pay an etra 50% for the same product!  I just don’t see how the older model can compete with the ultimate streamlined process that Amazon has perfected.  However, when I mentioned this to the female members of our group, they just laughed at me and said that, “Not everyone hates shopping, I like to hold the product I’m going to buy in my hand.  On top of that, it’s a fun outing.”  Plainly I am the weird one here?!  Anyway, I guess the logical conclusion is that there will likely always be a retail market of some kind that charges ridiculous prices in order to subsidize the “atmosphere” they provide – I just won’t be a part of it.  That’s ok Chapters, smile, we’ll always have that special stretch from 1998-2004 or so where you my one and only :)

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12 years ago

This book store analogy is a good analogy for real life. Don’t get complacent because someone is always trying to replace you if you are at the top. Living in the U.S., I have never heard of Chapters, but Borders and Barnes and Noble here seem to be suffering a similar fate after they crushed independent book sellers in the nineties.

12 years ago

I often wonder that too about the book store Barnes & Noble. I like to go in there and look around but then I look at the price and think “seriously”?! I guess if you need a book now it’s nice to walk in the store and get it but like you I choose to buy my books on Amazon.

12 years ago

I think shopping has changed forever! If you do not need it today and can wait a couple of days, online shopping giants like Amazon wins and so does the customer.

I must admit I love Amazon. I love how convenient it is. I may sometimes pay the same price for an item (this is rare though), but I don’t care. I like not having to leave the house and being able to shop from my home. I buy books online all of the time. They are literally half the price. I think book stores still exist because people like the atmosphere. Nothing is better on a cold winter’s day then heading the book store with a hot tea and browsing around.

12 years ago

Yeah – online is the way to go for most things but somehow a bookstore has an irreplaceable character. As you browse the latest (or not so latest) publications, you eye catches something two shelves down. This hasn’t been replicated yet by Amazon. Nor has squatting on the floor or getting signed editions. We have Waterstones in the UK which is I guess similar to Barnes and Noble and Chapters. It is nice to go there. At Christmas it is having (well it was last year anyway) with folk buying books at a last minute. But if you need something… Read more »

12 years ago

My husband and I love to peruse books in real bookstores…but we only would buy them at Half-Priced bookstores or if we had a 40% off coupon from Borders. It’s because you’re right–buying books online or getting them from the library is drastically cheaper.

12 years ago

Big fan of Amazon, they make it so easy and I really like the free shipping. We just had a neighborhood bookstore called Borders shut down. It really was a cool place to hangout and have a cup of coffee and read.

12 years ago

Being from the States, I had never heard of Chapters. I do know that our local Barnes & Noble is shutting down as well. It is really too bad because I do like to go in and browse and touch the merchandise.

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