In an extensive survey conducted by Consumer Reports, 88 percent of respondents said they were either completely satisfied or very satisfied with their experience at independent bookstores. Independents not only out-ranked internet and chain bookstores, but their exceptionally high rating put them “on a par with the highest-rated stores from any Consumer Reports survey in recent years.”
The feature report appears in the January 2002 issue of Consumer Reports and is based on a survey of 25,000 consumers, reflecting nearly 39,000 book buying experiences, as well as the magazine’s own in-house research.
Independents received the highest overall rating, which combined five criteria: whether the book the customer sought was available, breadth of selection, ambiance, service, and layout. Online booksellers came in second (85 percent of readers were very satisfied), followed by chains (70 percent), book clubs (61 percent), and warehouse clubs (54 percent).
“Readers found salespeople at independents far more helpful than those at chains,” the magazine reports. Nine percent of respondents said salespeople at chain stores were unable to answer their questions. When customers requested out-of-stock books, independents succeeded in ordering the titles 96 percent of the time, compared to 88 percent for chains and 79 percent for online booksellers.
“Part of the independent stores’ appeal derives from their ties to the community,” the report concludes. “Salespeople tend to keep an eye out for books that particular customers might like, and the stores often stock books written by local authors or featuring local lore and food.”
Consumer Reports found that independents came up short in one area: price. On a selection of ten books, independents on average discounted only 2 percent off the list price, compared to 4 percent at Borders, 8 percent at Barnes & Noble, and 31 percent at Amazon.com. (During the first three quarters of this year, Amazon.com posted losses of $572 million on $2 billion in sales.)