Whitcoulls: my part in its downfall

Competition from online booksellers is one of the reasons being given for the problems facing the Whitcoulls and Borders bookstore chains.

I have to admit I have played a part in their downfall.

Reading is one of my passions and I buy a lof of books.

If I ever have time to spare when I’m in town or visiting a city I’ll go looking for a bookshop and I rarely come out empty handed.

But in the last couple of years I’ve also bought at least as many books from the online bookstore Fishpond as I have from book shops.

Price isn’t usually the main consideration – there can be savings but most bookshops are pretty competitive. It’s the range of books on offer, the convenience and service which makes buying books online so attractive.

They often have books not available elsewhere. When I was teaching Spanish night classes I found several children’s books, of the same title, in English and Spanish and I’ve bought lots of other books from Fishpond which I haven’t been able to find in shops.

I still love browsing in bookshops. Being able to touch, see and dip into a book which catches my eye will always be preferable to looking at a catalogue online. But if I know the book I’m looking for it’s often easier to get it online than wait until I’m in town with enough time to visit a bookshop.

I was in Dunedin yesterday and called into Whitcoulls. It was busy, as it usually is, and the staff were as efficient and helpful as I’ve always found them. I said to the woman serving me that it must be difficult for her, not knowing if her job was secure.

She replied that the worst thing was not being able to tell the customers what was going to happen because the staff didn’t know.

With staff like that who smile and put the customer first in spite of the uncertain future for their own jobs, there is hope for the company.

Convenient as an online bookstore is, it’s hard to beat face to face service from people who are interested in what they’re selling and care about their customers.

10 Responses to Whitcoulls: my part in its downfall

  1. The one worry I have for the future of Whitcoulls is what will happen to the New Zealand fiction industry in the absence of a major bulk buyer. Interesting times we live in… and like you I’m a fishpond fan.

  2. Pdogge says:

    Indeed a worry but as it is said the only constant in life is change…I was in Auckland on Wednesday and like you, did my lurk through the bookshops and arrived at Borders (which I love to visit mainly for their excellent backlist and there being no Borders in Tauranga) to find the shop near deserted and very few staff. That night the story broke re the buss going into admin. I must also, like your goodself, found Fishpond to be a great resource especially for us rural types. Price, delivery times, range, all get a tick. Borders never offered online shopping…duh !

  3. Donald says:

    Yes, to a previous comment re. Borders having nothing on-line.

    So after being burnt by expensive prices, especially freight, by the NZ store, I’ve found it far better to order via Borders in the US. They seem better than Amazon too.

    For myself, I think the selection of books chosen for sale by Whitcoulls may have been too mindless, especially when I contrast to the selections at the Uni. Bookshop in Dunedin.



  4. MacDoctor says:

    I, too, enjoy browsing through bookshops but tend to buy my books online (in e-book format if possible). It is sad that the book industry has been horribly slow to adapt to the online world. I see whitcoulls has finally upgraded it’s horrible website, but it is too little, too late.

    I suspect nothing less than multiple store closures is going to save them. This is unfortunate because Paper Plus is not really a bookstore, but a stationery store with a few books. However, one has to question the wisdom of paying expensive rentals in high traffic malls. This has been the cause of the phenomenon Donald is describing – selections of bestsellers and popular authors with little beyond that. This is the only way to make the high rentals.

    Sadly, I can only see fewer stores with poorer selections in the future.

  5. Inventory2 says:

    I shop at Borders whenever I go to Christchurch; ironically, my spend at Whitcoulls has burgeoned in the last two months since I got an iPad; they have an excellent e-book selection!

  6. Dutchie down South says:

    I always was in the understamding that
    Fishpond was owned by

  7. homepaddock says:

    I don’t know who owns Fishpond, Dutchie.

  8. Pdogge says:

    Wikipeadia reports Daniel Robertson to be the founder & CEO as thus http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fishpond.co.nz

  9. homepaddock says:

    Thanks PD, that led me to this: http://www.fishpond.co.nz/about_us.php that confrims it.

  10. […] know that the blogging community are following this closely, and hopefully their readers can take interest in what’s actually going […]

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