The local Border’s where I live in Columbia hasn’t received many of my dollars in recent years. The appeal of being in an endless big-box store, crammed (over-crammed?) with merchandise has lost its appeal. Yet, I’ve been to the local Borders more times in the last month than I’ve been in the last few years. Why? I’m interested in co-working: that is, working with others in a productive and social space.
Interestingly, for as large as my hometown is, I almost always run into someone I know there. I love it. I can work. I can have light interactions with weak social ties, and I feel included and connected to the human race when I’m out and about.
Wednesday evenings host the knitting club at Border’s. The ladies, and they are all ladies, were chatty, happy and loud. I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation and announcement that Border’s was, in essence, cutting them off. “The Fire Marshal this … ” “The Fire Marshal that …” Essentially, their success as a group means they are beginning to outgrow the place. Their announcement to the group: We’re looking for a place that can hold us all, like an empty room in a school or church.
Half the fun of getting out of the house and meeting up with friends to knit, cowork, study is being out. The chance encounters, running into friends I haven’t seen in ages, and striking up conversations with new people is why it’s worth going. Knitting in a school room? They’ll solve their problem right away, I’d bet. Their group numbers would plummet.
So, there I was in Borders on knitting night. Every table was full, as is almost always the case, regardless of the evening. The adjacent magazine area was packed. It was a chatty, friendly and productive environment. Once again, I found myself irritated at Border’s lack of understanding the business model that will take them forward into the next decade or two of financial success: People want public spaces to be together.
I decided to sleuth. I roamed the store and counted 57 people. This is a HUGE store in a grayfield of the suburban nightmare of one-story big-box stores spread over vast amounts of land. There were 63 people in the small bit of space in the cafe and magazine area.
I’ve blogged about this before here and what I think the solutions for Border’s are, so kindly click the link and read on if you’re curious.
Enough with businesses trying to do good with pink this, and red that and 10-percent-of-profits-go-to-X kind of overplayed, mediocre, boring corporate do-gooded-ness. It’s ineffective. It’s noise. It does little.
Just watch what your customers are doing and pay attention to trends. All the answers are right there!