It makes sense to offer the widest inventory and service the long tail through an on demand service. The consumers selects what they want and the assistant is able to produce it there in the store without the retailer holding any inventory. The store is no longer restricted to what it can put on the shelf but to what inventory it can tap into and service it can provide at point of sale.
Music, games, audio and software are all logical sales. After all in some stores you take an empty case to the counter and they retrieve the disc there so hardly any difference there then. The interesting area is whether the human and physical interface is seen by the consumer as added value, whether it migrates to a kiosk or what additional spin offs can be provided by having virtual inventory – that old shrinkage will certainly disappear.
So does this mean we shall see the Espresso book machine in a bookstore near you soon? Well last year’s potential sighting in a major store in Oxford Street didn’t happen and its still doubtful whether the technology is compact and robust enough today or more importantly the service will be viewed as added value. It will be great when it does happen but for today let us watch Borders experiment on demand and wish them well.