I recently walked into the Chapters bookstore in downtown Montreal and was immediately put on edge by the almost complete lack of books on display at the front of the shop. Chapters, like most large book retailers, had traditionally maintained an impressive array of new, bargain and heavily promoted books that greet would-be buyers as soon as they enter the store. Apparently, this is a thing of the past, as the only merchandise Chapters had available at the front of their flagship location were novelty notepads, bookmarks, small puzzles and what seemed to be their own branded e-reader device.
Sure, there were plenty of books elsewhere inside Chapters, but the decision to shift the focus from fiction and non-fiction to consumer bric-a-brac was unsettling to me, to say the least. I even asked a salesperson as to the reason for the lack of books, and although she acknowledged that yes, books were missing from the store’s main display, she wasn’t able to provide a reason for the change, or inform me as to whether it was permanent. She actually seemed more uncomfortable with my question than anything else, although perhaps that was understandable as I’m sure Chapters does not consult with every member of its staff before making strategic decisions.
Has anyone else out there encountered something similar at their own Chapters location? Or at any other large book chain lately? Are the major book retailers being forced to diversify their product offerings in order to survive, or is the downtown Montreal shop an aberration?