Thursday, July 7, 2005

The Demise of Rand McNally Bookstores

Thailand Handbook

Get Lost bookstore newsletter
July, 2005
A Tale of Two Closings

Rand McNally closed its San Francisco store last
week. The word is that they are closing all their
stores, and that the San Francisco location was
one of the last. On its website, Rand McNally
lists only one store, in Houston. Due to a number
of acquisitions, including Thomas Brothers maps,
Rand McNally controls a sizeable percentage of
the US cartography market. However, Rand McNally
filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11 in February
2003. A private equity firm took a controlling
interest in the company. Stores began closing,
and the pickings in the remaining locations grew
slim. I’m guessing they will now concentrate on
cartography, especially considering how newer
companies like Mapquest are licensing their own
products to other map companies. (Check out the
United States road atlases of National
Geographic, Michelin and American Map and thank
Mapquest for the cartography.)

I must admit I didn’t feel all that disappointed
when Rand McNally closed. I did feel a sense of
loss, however, when Easy Going, a Berkeley travel
shop, closed earlier this year. Easy Going was a
real mom-and-pop store that will be sorely
missed. Even as its shelves began to thin, they
still continued to host excellent in-store
events. Members of the community briefly rallied
to raise money (or purchase shares, I am not
certain which) to prevent the closure. But, in
the end, it did close. Easy Going, like other
locally owned independent bookstores, took
chances on quirky titles. Like Get Lost, they
carried small or self-published presses,
sometimes on consignment.

On the subject of locally owned, Dan Houston, a
partner in Civic Economics, has done studies
showing that local merchants contribute more than
three times as much economic value back to the
community than do chain stores. (Read an
interview at:­k/relay.php?r=849243958&msgid=­708610&ac­094.html

or, read one of the reports at­k/relay.php?r=849243958&msgid=­708610&ac­Andersonville/AndersonvilleStu­dy.pdf

This contribution may well be augmented in the
case of locally owned bookstores, which are more
likely to support local or micro presses. Rand
McNally is headquartered in Skokie, Illinois. It
is hard to create a sense of community when
headquarters does your book buying. As I
understand it, the San Francisco store did manage
to carry the Rough Guides, an exception allowed
no other branch store.

When corporate headquarters doesn’t deem it necessary,
(that is,
profitable enough) to stock a quality series of
travel books like the Rough Guides, it probably
won’t carry wonderful, small presses like Garrett
County Press (out of New Orleans), Stone Bridge
Press (out of Berkeley), art-Sites Press (out of
San Francisco) Bored Feet Press (out of
Mendocino) or the self-published Time Off! The
Unemployed Guide to San Francisco, by two San
Francisco authors. I hope this hasn’t sounded
like a lesson in civics. I will miss Easy Going.
I will miss Rand McNally less.

While I am on the subject of local and
independent, get ready for Books by the Bay,
sponsored by the Northern California Independent
Booksellers Association (NCIBA), of which Get
Lost is a proud member. Read our events section
below for details.

Lee Azus
Get Lost Travel Books

No comments:

Post a Comment