Whether you are shopping for a specific book, or just taking some time to yourself to browse around a bookstore, you may not be aware of all of the reasons you’re drawn into that store. When I had the chance to look around the Books-A-Million store in the Susquehanna Valley Mall, I was curious to see how the layout of the store contributed to the store itself. I wondered if there was a “method to the layout madness.” While I looked around and made interpretations of my own, I noted the floor plan of the store. Below is a sketch of Books-A-Million, a store that seems to appeal to all.
When you walk into the entrance of this store, there seems to be something for everyone depending on which direction you look. It is clear that when BAM was designing their floor plan, they wanted their store to appeal to many different audiences. Because Books-A-Million is a corporate bookstore chain, it is appropriate to assume that they are not attempting to cater to one certain type of book consumer. BAM wants to lure all kinds of readers into their store in hopes they will want to continue shopping around the store after looking at what originally appealed to them. In my opinion the floor plan in Books-A-Million represents the goal to attract readers of all genres into their store. However, I couldn’t help but feel the store also had a deeper hidden message in the way it was organized.
Upon entering the store the first thing that appeals to many customers is a small cart of books that are labeled with the words everyone loves to see when shopping in a mall – on sale. This small cart is simple, but it is a sure way to get shoppers to look in the stores direction and draw them in to get a closer look. This is where the floor plan begins to do its job. At the entrance, consumers get a taste of everything that can be offered in the store. To the right there are magazines of all genres in the newsstand section. To the left customers see new arrivals, top sellers, and a featured series. The featured series is complete with books and merchandise of all kinds that may appeal to fans of the series. There are both tables and shelves full of books and games that coincide with the series theme. Straight ahead are shelves and shelves of genres that are clearly labeled so readers of all genres can find what they are looking for. In the back there is a brightly colored sign that is for the kids. the kids section aligns the while back wall of the store and is filled with books as well as toys and games that appeal to young shoppers. This leads to me to believe the layout is appealing to everyone; no matter what stage of life that person is in. Is BAM a representation of stages of life? I didn’t think this could be until I recognized a path around the outside edges of the store.
Along the left wall shoppers are provided with a large variety of books to look through. What I found interesting about this wall, was it appeared as though it were a timeline. While walking through the store I was unaware of this at first. But after creating my floor plan and taking a deeper look into the genres listed above, I noticed this pattern. Starting at the front of this store the labels are favorites, local, interest, art, music, games etc. I believe these are grouped together because they are all common human interest. However, as you work your way back deeper through the store, the genres also seem to grow deeper. Towards the back we being to see spirit, philosophy, and biographies. After this group consumers begin to see more genres such as business, cooking, and parenting. It was no surprise to see that the corner of the store connects parenting to baby’s first books. The baby books develop into children’s books and increase in reading level as it moves along the edge of the store.
This layout to me indicates a cycle. This is the cycle of interest as we grow as humans. The outside walls of the store represent the stages of life most people experience. beginning at the left wall with interests and leading into self growth, religion, and philosophy. Next, we get into the part of life we begin to have interest in business and parenting. This leads into the kids section as we have children and teach them to grow. The inside of the store has other books, games, toys, etc. I feel these things represent what we need during our lives to help us grow through each of these outer sections. When I think about the bookstore as a representation of a life cycle, I think about a quote from Walter Benjamin in Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting. Benjamin says “Every passion boarders on the chaotic, but the collector’s passion boarders on the chaos on memories.” (Benjamin 60) I think about this quote because if everyone thought about bookstores as representations of life then we would be wanting to collect these books with passion, even if it seems chaotic.
Overall, I feel that Books-A-Million appeals to everyone in a way that draws everyone into the store. I feel the drawing people in effect is due to the connection of life stages all people go through. Life takes us through many phases and sometimes we need things to help us through these phases, so why not use collection of books? Benjamin states, “Collectors are people with a tactical instinct; Their experience teaches them…” (Benjamin 63) We should use our experiences to learn to move through the stages of life, and to do this Benjamin suggests we create our own collections. Books-A-Million’s floor plan is one that invites consumers in to become collectors, and there is a book for everyone no matter what stage of life you are in.
Benjamin, Walter. Unpacking My Library: A Talk About Book Collecting. Schocken Books, 1931.
Courtesy of Madison Rice
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