The information you are seeking is, indeed, out there. It just
requires considerable sifting, distillation and compilation. What I
have done is to search out details on the typical customer of a
national bookstore, such as Borders, WaldenBooks or Barnes & Noble. I
have also taken a look at the demographics of the locations in which
these companies choose to build their stores, as these are decisions
into which large companies put considerable time, money and effort.
The following excerpt is from a Publishers Weekly interview with
Greg Josefowicz, Borders CEO, regarding the chains expansion plans.
It tells us something about the customer demographics that Borders
looks at when deciding where to open new stores.
Demographics are in the company's favor, Josefowicz maintained.
College graduates and people over 45 buy some 60% of books, and that
population group will continue to increase.
Josefowicz summed up "the best reasons" for customers coming into and
returning to a store, regardless of what it sells, as "I like it, it's
big, I get what I want and I feel good." Thus, much of Josefowicz's
focus is on the customer's experience in the store. Noting that there
is a range of options for customers, from $1.99 remainder books to
John Adams by David McCullough for $35, he said that the "vast
majority of customers don't come in with a specific purchase in mind,"
although they often intend to browse certain categories. "Two-thirds
of Borders customers don't have an idea of what they want to buy,"
Josefowicz added. "They are coming in for the event."
Talking Shop with Borders Chairman Greg Josefowicz by John Mutter
PW Daily for Booksellers , February 20, 2002
By looking at where a large bookstore would locate, we can learn a
considerable amount about their customer demographics. From an article
entitled Lifestyle Centers Emerge as Solution to Monotony of
Traditional Malls, we get the following information:
For Alex Lelli, vice president of development at Ann Arbor,
Mich.-based Borders Group, determining where to open new stores comes
down to two main factors: the site and the co-tenants. "There are a
lot of different property types that appeal to us, and lifestyle
centers are certainly one of them. But we weigh a number of
attributes. Depending on the site and the demographic makeup of an
area, we might do well in a power center with co-tenants like Bed Bath
& Beyond and Best Buy. In another area of the country we could drop a
store into a center that includes a Gap or a Pottery Barn," he says.
Further on, the article states:
By opening day, the center included Borders, Linens 'n Things, Old
Navy, Ann Taylor Loft, Gap, GapKids, Chico's, Bombay Company and
So from this we know that Borders considers a lifestyle center to
offer the proper customer demographics. And the article goes on to
yield several demographic nuggets:
The textbook definition of a lifestyle center includes upscale
it includes ample specialty retailers, convenient parking and
He stresses the need for an affluent demographic profile and a
location that is far enough removed from significant competition.
"The key is to have a defining story and an aspirational
customer-base. In one market, a developer may choose to focus on a
collection of home furnishings retailers and look to a company like
Crate & Barrel to serve as an anchor. In another market, Nordstrom
might anchor a center alongside upscale apparel chains."
So everything about the demographic points to an affluent, upwardly
mobile customer who likes the good things in lifefine food, specialty
stores, elegant home furnishings, and in general a high-end shopping
National Retail Federation
Lifestyle Centers Emerge as Solution to Monotony of Traditional Malls
Again, looking at the demographics of where a large bookstore locates
will tell us about their customer. The following excerpt is from an
article on the website of the Macerich Company, a Santa Monica,
California Real Estate Investment Trust firm. The article deals with a
Redmond, Washington lifestyle center into which Borders chose to
locate a store. This particular article yields the riches of actual
Other major draws among the property's current 523,000 sq. ft. of
main street retail and big-box space include Borders Books & Music
The Bon Marché and other new merchants have been drawn to the site by
the Eastside area's rapid population growth and exceptional
demographics. Redmond Town Center's primary market has 198,000
residents with an average household income of $90,530. Including a
secondary area, the property serves a total market of nearly 650,000
residents with an average household income of $86,056. This is a
highly educated market, with 71% of adults having attended or
graduated collegewell above the 44% ratio for the entire U.S.
Bruce Johnston, Macerich regional v.p.-leasing for the Pacific
Northwest and Northern California, believes that The Bon Marché is
well suited to this affluent, educated market.
The Macerich Company
In an article on the Midnight Special Bookstore website, detailing the
evils of the superstore, there is additional information on the
demographics of the Barnes & Noble customer, from a Barnes & Noble
"Our average customer spends a great deal of time in the superstore,
and comes specifically to the store," says Donna Passannanre of Barnes
& Noble. This is important: Mall stores and smaller neighborhood shops
rely on foot traffic, but superstores are known as "destination
stores," featuring plush reading areas and cafes to help draw
customers explicitly to them. The stores also strive to offer more
than just books. "It's become more than a book-buying experience,''
says Passannante. "There are cultural events; the stores are where you
go for entertainment."
"In general, we look at the performance of other stores," says Barnes
& Noble's Donna Passannante. We also look at income and education."
The Border's corporate office similarly boasts of extensive
demographics research before choosing a location, and both stores are
expressly interested in affluent customers, who will also be
interested in such crossover products as music and computer software.
From the above we can deduce that the typical large bookstore customer
values comfortable surroundings and the café experience, and considers
the purchase of books to be a cultural as well as an entertaining
pursuit. The customer demographic reflects high income, appreciation
of music, and high computer literacy, indicating high education
Midnight Special Bookstore
by Holly Willis
Borders 2000 Annual Report makes mention of some demographic features
on their customer base:
Demographic trends favorable to Borders, such as the continued rise
in the number of affluent and highly educated Americans, support our
The Borders Group 2001 Annual Report corroborates this:
Were reading good things into the future as key book-buying
demographics like higher income, age and education trend in our
One last interesting note from the San Diego Metropolitan Uptown
Examiner and Daily Business Report regarding Borders use of customer
As a retailer, Borders tailors its title base to the demographics of
each stores location. Just 50 percent of Borders' title base is
common to all stores, while the other half is customized to the
location by experienced buyers using the company's sophisticated
computerized inventory system.
So your Borders and mine would not necessarily carry the same books.
San Diego Metropolitan
January 3, 2002
So putting all of this together, we get a good picture of the national
retail bookstore customer. I hope that this information will prove
useful to you, didi. Should you require clarification of any of the
above, please do not hesitate to ask.
"shop at" large OR chain bookstores typical
"shop at" large OR chain bookstores "typical customer"
"who shops" Borders
Borders OR "Barnes and Noble" customer demographics