Too cozy to fail?
Like when McNally Robinson vacated their Portage Place premises a couple of years ago, this certainly comes as sad news (the Polo Park store's awkardly confusing layout notwithstanding). And while it was surprising when I read it this morning (my last memory of the place was the frantic aisles and a long queues of Christmastime), it is much less so after a moment of consideration. The rehabilitation of the former Sport Check location in the basement of Polo Park was obviously not an inexpensive move, involving constructing an entirely new facade and extensive remodelling of the interior. The end result was a branch store with roughly the same floor space as the flagship store located a 10-15 drive away.
This seemed a little too much bookstore for the location. Polo Park is a great for selling iPods, skinny jeans, and cashmere sweaters, but for a store whose market is the established literate classes of the city (and surrounding hinterlands), it's hard to imagine an operation of that scale being profitable there.
Equally unsurprising, is that the compnay's woes are being caused by the internet. CBC Radio spent the afternoon blaming this on more people downloading e-books, or ordering them online. The few individuals I know that have downloading a book online, have done so to assist with hastily writing a school paper. Certainly never to read.
Winnipeg's literary scene has never been better than it has in recent years, thanks in no small part to millions of titles available (for good prices) through the internet. In 2009, people that continued to read books had the printed world at their fingertips, and more access to more books than they would have 20 years earlier. McNally Robinson proves at Grant Park (and apparently Saskatoon) can be profitable and thrive as a compliment to the new amazon.com reality.
The company's troubles come from taking very costly risks at a very bad time to do so. Namely, months before a recession. The unfortunate part for Winnipeg customers, is that the company now has one location instead of two.
***Is Sandy Shindleman suggesting auto workers read books?