I'm always thinking about ways to resurrect/save/reinvigorate the bookselling business. So, when I heard this week about Starbucks' trouble (closing 600 company-owned stores), I begin to wonder about their troubles and translating it to another retail industry
I am one of those hypocrites who complains about the big-box bookstores killing the industry while simultaneously shopping there myself. There's a Barnes & Noble gift card in my wallet right now. There are maybe two main reasons people like us shop at these stories. First is their ubiquitousness. These stores are everywhere. Certainly much closer to me than my nearest (decent) independent bookstore. The second reason we frequent these sorts of places despite our moral qualms is that we know what to expect.
The retail franchise model supports these two explanations, but does something more. It puts the success or failure of the store in the hands of the franchisee. This is why I think it could succeed as new model for bookselling.
The corporate office in the franchise provides branding, which may be the most important element of what they do, but they also offer support. Support is much different than mandates. I'm not sure how much liberty the buyer at the local Borders has, but I'm relatively certain the books they chose to promote, what ends up on the stores displays, in their windows, are directed from some corporate office far, far away. An independent owner/operator, though, would have freedom to respond to his/her individual market, absent of corporate mandates.
Now, since the time my mind crossed this possibility, I've been imagining many different scenarios, many different ways the relationship between franchiser and franchisee could work. I just want to put the thought out there. I know little about the industry in detail, and my knowledge of the franchise set-up comes from my time as a manager at a pizza delivery chain. So, I'm no expert, but maybe someone out there knows more and could help build the business case--or, tell me I'm just wrong.