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Do Bookstores Have Brand Equity Abroad?

Are there bookstores from abroad you’d like to see in your own country?

By Edward Nawotka

Books Kinokuniya in New York

Readers who travel often run across a wonderful bookstore and think to themselves, “I wish they would open one of those in my hometown.” There are, in fact, several examples of bookstores opening on foreign shores, and UK bookstore Foyles is looking for partners abroad.

In the early 90s UK chain Waterstone’s opened branches in the US, but these didn’t last through the turn of the century; and America’s Borders expanded aggressively abroad, but only a handful of stores remain following the company’s bankruptcy and continued disenfranchisement.

Others have managed to make it work: Japanese chain Kinokunia, for example, has several successful foreign outposts, including stores in New York and Dubai.

Do bookstores have enough brand equity to make an impact abroad? Is there a need for international expansion when digital publishing has broken down borders? Are there bookstores from abroad you’d like to see in your own country?

Let us know what you think in the comments.

(Photo by David Creswell)

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3 Comments

  1. JATardiff
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 8:53 am | Permalink

    Very difficult for bookstores (primarily chain operations) “to leap over the pond” as it were — Atlantic or Pacific, or in either direction. A few have tried only to retrench or abandon ventures entirely. Sometimes not even supported by their own expat customer. Ironically, your own example amplifies my point.

  2. Christine
    Posted July 14, 2011 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps Heywood Hill can open a branch on the Upper East Side of New York? If they focus on British titles not published in the US I think they would be successful and reach readers beyond Mitford groupies.

    Waterstone’s once had a beautiful store off Newbury Street in Boston in the early 1990s.

  3. Posted July 17, 2011 at 9:03 am | Permalink

    It’s always been hard for independent bookshops, but never more so than right now. The thing is, the person who says wistfully “I wish they’d open one of these in my home town,” likely wants the browsing experience close by, but when it comes time to purchase the product, they’ll go to Amazon. It’s the way of it: we’re used to cheap prices or everything being free, so we’ll visit a bookstore to get ideas about what they want to buy, we’ll read the shelf talkers, skim read a few books, and then go away and buy them online. I’ve talked to many booksellers and they all lament the same phenomenon. People seem to love the bookstore experience, but too few are willing to pay for it.

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