Should local book stores be taking on Amazon?
The American Booksellers Association (ABA) launched a campaign, #BoxedOut, directly calling out Amazon’s threat to the future of the local bookstore.
The campaign, which launched on Amazon Prime Day, saw cardboard coverings overtake the storefront of six indie bookstores. The boxes piled up out front by the retailers resemble Amazon’s brown boxes. Playful slogans splayed across the boarded-up windows and boxes include:
- “Don’t accept Amazon’s Brave New World.”
- “Bookstores vs. billionaires – I’m on the side of the ones that let you use their bathroom.”
- “Books curated by real people, not a creepy algorithm.”
- “If you want Amazon to be the world’s only retailer, keep shopping there.”
- “Amazon, please leave the dystopia to Orwell.”
Fake cardboard books displayed titles such as “To Kill A Locally Owned Bookstore” and “Journey To The Center Of The Retail Warehouse.”
Numerous other independents joined in the national social media campaign.
Independent bookstores had shown some recovery over the last decade with the exit of Borders, Barnes & Noble’s reset and the stabilization of in-store book purchases. The pandemic has led to steep sales declines, however, with the online-buying shift said to be largely benefiting Amazon.
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The brown Amazon boxes have become ubiquitous, but they’re boxing out local bookstores. We have the power to shape our communities through where we spend our money. Shopping indie means more local choice, tax dollars and jobs, and a truly unique diverse community. That’s why we support @americanbooksellers’ Don’t Box Out Bookstores Event, along with some of our fellow NYC indies @mcnallyjackson, @communitybookstore, and @cafeconlibros_bk. Swipe for some progress pics of the campaign going up at our Fulton St. store! • “If shoppers could shift more of their purchasing away from Amazon to local businesses like ours … it could make all the difference in allowing us to survive and thrive for years to come. We hope Boxed Out will have that effect.” – Greenlight co-owner Jessica Stockton-Bagnulo. • #ShopIndie #BoxedOut
Foot traffic has improved with store reopenings, but remains down. Bookstores have been unable to stage in-store events, such as author signings, that used to boost sales. Higher expenses to cover postage, shipping materials, cleansing supplies and PPE are squeezing already thin margins.
An ABA survey over this summer found that some 20 percent of members could go out of business. Allison Hill, ABA’s CEO, said in a statement, “People may not realize the cost and consequences of ‘convenience’ shopping until it’s too late.”
The timing of the campaign is designed to encourage early shopping for the important holiday selling period. The campaign also speaks to the benefits to local jobs, local sales taxes and a community’s fabric that comes from local stores.
A number of participating stores had never publicly spoken out against Amazon. Sarah McNally, owner of McNally Jackson in New York City, told Business Insider. “I’ve never felt that guilting people would ever work, but suddenly things are so dire right now.”
- American Booksellers Association Launches “Boxed Out” Campaign Across the U.S. – American Booksellers Association/Business Wire
- ABA Launches #BoxedOut Campaign: Booksellers Invited to Join – American Booksellers Association
- Hundreds of struggling indie bookstores used Amazon’s Prime Day to launch a national campaign against the retailer. Here’s how owners are fighting the e-commerce giant and its stranglehold on sales. – Business Insider
- Your Local Bookstore Wants You to Know That It’s Struggling – The New York Times
- Indie bookstores launch anti-Amazon ‘Boxed Out’ campaign – The Associated Press
- Indie booksellers feeling ‘Boxed Out’ by Amazon respond with campaign targeting tech giant – GeekWire
DISCUSSION QUESTIONS: Do you see more pros than cons in local bookstores calling out Amazon’s impact on their business? What do you think of the messaging and overall approach of the #BoxedOut campaign?