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Physical Attraction

When a friend asked me recently why I didn’t own a Kindle, and I answered with “Oh there’s just something special about turning a crisp white page,” I seriously worried that I’d hit middle age without even realizing it. But the recent book sales data released by Nielsen suggests I’m more ‘down with the kids’ than I feared.

When a friend asked me recently why I didn’t own a Kindle, and I answered with “Oh there’s just something special about turning a crisp white page,” I seriously worried that I’d hit middle age without even realizing it. But the recent book sales data released by Nielsen suggests I’m more ‘down with the kids’ than I feared.

While e-books experienced a 4% dip in sales in 2016, sales of printed books rose by 7% – and Nielsen is attributing much of this increase to the sales growth in children’s books. (The other categories that did well were fitness and self-help books, which might suggest I’m heading for middle age after all.)

This data tallies with a survey carried out in 2013 by youth research agency Voxburner, which found 62% of 16-24 year olds preferred printed books to e-books. Commentators surmise that young people live with such a barrage of digital options that they love a bit of time out with a physical book.

I can’t help but compare this trend to the world of retail. Like online shopping, e-books are usually cheaper than their physical counterpart and e-readers are easier to hold, store and transport. And just as it has become apparent that people still like to ‘curl up with a good book’, I think that people also like their regular dose of ‘retail therapy’ on the High St.

When the concept of digital books was first introduced, commentators stated with grim certainty that the death of the traditional book was nigh – just like analysts spoke (and some still do) about the ‘death of the High St’.

But – just like books – the High St hasn’t died. Yes it’s evolved, and through that evolution process some retailers have suffered, a few irrevocably. But the retailers that understand why people still love to go shopping are thriving. These are the retailers that give consumers an experience that they can only enjoy in the physical space – a coffee with friends, a demonstration of a much sought-after product or expert, personal advice that encourages and reassures.

We work with a number of brands like Dyson and Lavazza in retail stores to help them connect with consumers in the physical retail space through product demonstrations and expert advice. This depth of experience simply cannot be replicated online – and consumers know it.

So while I skulk off to buy another self help book from my local bookshop (who by the way are also bucking the predicted trend of decline) I have no doubt that shoppers will continue to flock to the High St. And those retailers that are willing to provide a positive consumer experience will remain physically attractive for a long while yet.

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MASH Staffing