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Kids destinations play into Borders’ concept store strategy

The kids section has always posted contributed sales for US book retailer Borders Group, so it was a natural candidate for a bigger destination treatment in a cluster of concept stores that rolled out earlier this year. With a more inviting ambience and a wider array of non-book merchandise, the new-and-improved real estate is already out-performing Borders' older kids departments chain-wide in terms of sales.
May 1, 2008

The kids section has always posted contributed sales for US book retailer Borders Group, so it was a natural candidate for a bigger destination treatment in a cluster of concept stores that rolled out earlier this year. With a more inviting ambience and a wider array of non-book merchandise, the new-and-improved real estate is already out-performing Borders’ older kids departments chain-wide in terms of sales.

The first locations in Ann Arbor, Michigan (opened in March) and Las Vegas (April) are among 15 concept stores slated to open State-side this year, and Borders plans to integrate their most successful features into regular stores chain-wide.

To make the kids sections stand out, the company commissioned author and illustrator Colin Thompson to create a mural that spans three walls, featuring a collage of fantastical images such as castles, underground cities and flying books. It hangs above white metal bookcases only found in this section, giving it a crisp, clean feel. Southfield, Michigan-based retail designer JGA incorporated more primary colors into signage to attract young readers, along with new wire fixtures to better accommodate multi-category lines like Klutz’s puzzle and activity kits, and more end caps.

Seeking to step into the market niche that shops like KB Toys used to fill, and hoping to corner more one-stop shopping dollars, Borders brought in new specialty lines (as well as more SKUs of mass lines such as Lego and Littlest Pet Shop) and grew its gift options with musical instruments, arts & crafts products and gift wrapping.

There’s also a stronger focus on baby; this dedicated section has moved from the front of the kids space to the back corner, creating a cozier feel and easier access to the picture books, toys and kids music and video products. It has also been laid out with wider aisles for stroller-pushing moms.

But the biggest change was to divide the kids section into age groupings along the lines of infant, toddler and preschool (ages zero to four), beginning readers (four to eight) and early readers (seven to nine). The independent reader (nine to 12) section, which used to share this kids space, has been relocated across the aisle.

Thanks to Pottermania, the fiction offering for this age group has gotten huge. And pulling it out of the kids corner lets Borders focus on growing its zero to nine range. Giving indie readers their own dedicated space also opens up shelf space for more tween-focused non-book products, including additional SKUs from the best-selling Hannah Montana line and Sakar’s Digital Girl range of consumer electronics and computer products targeting the eight to 10 set.

Director of children’s Diane Mangan is confident the revamped kids areas will attract more foot traffic, especially higher-income, well-educated customers who are less likely to feel the pinch of recession. But she adds that in tougher economic times (and the US is certainly facing them), parents in general are more likely to forgo treats for themselves than to deny their kids a book or entertainment experience. ‘Books remain a relatively inexpensive form of entertainment, and I’d say kids bookselling is, overall, fairly recession-proof,’ she says.

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