Target Takes on Bookstores


There has been a lot of troubling news for bookstores lately as they face increased competition from e-books and online retailers, and now even Target stores have them in their sights. If you go into any Target, you’ll find a variety of fiction, trade fiction, non-fiction, and mass release books that is more comparable to a bookstore than any other big box store, so you can grab the latest from your favorite author while shopping for everything else you need.

According to Publishers Weekly, the demographics of Target shoppers most closely resembles that of American book buyers, so Target considers itself in competition with them instead of, say, Wal-Mart. Whereas 30% of Wal-Mart shoppers are 65 or older and 55% have an average income of less than $40,000, Target says the median age of its shoppers is 46 and that the median income is $55,000, numbers very similar to bookstore demos and Target is taking full advantage.

Books are discounted 15-30% in Target stores and the340,841 titles sold online are discounted 5-30% with free shipping if you spend at least $50. Target sells the Kindle and Sony e-readers, it has its own book club picks and it mimics the Barnes and Noble “Discover Great New Writers” program with its “Bookmarked Breakout” selections from new writers.

A team of book buyers at Target’s corporate headquarters in Minnesota decides which books the 1750 Target stores will carry and they buy up to 50 new titles a month, generally sticking to big publishing house choices with printing runs of at least 100,000. While all Targets carry essentially the same books, how those books are displayed will vary from store to store depending on the clientele of that particular Target.

Target doesn’t carry a book until they’re sure it will sell. Paul Harding’s ‘Tinkers’ was a huge critical success when it was published in January 2009, but it didn’t sell well and wasn’t even on Target’s radar. Once Harding won the Pulitzer Prize, though, Target stocked it and has now sold 20,000 copies of the 350,000 in print. Behold the power of the big box store.

Do you buy your books at Target? Is their selection big enough to suit your needs?

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