01 February 2010

Tesco takes on Hollywood?

I've always thought that the supermarkets in England were, in fact, more super than the ones here in the States--or at least, in the Boston area. And I think this proves it. Ubiquitous supermarket chain Tesco (of the annoying "Every little helps" slogan,) is, according to the Guardian, moving into the film business. They are starting with direct to DVD, and there are plans to finance film adaptations of well known books, including YA classics Tiger Eyes by Judy Bloom and the Sally Lockhart books by Phillip Pullman (will Billie Piper be reprising the role, one wonders?)

It seems to me that this venture is possible because of the role supermarkets play in the United Kingdom as sellers of books. To quote the Guardian piece:

"The shift into film production is part of Tesco's effort to make the most of its growing influence as a retailer of mainstream books and home entertainment."

Perhaps this says more about my shopping habits than it does about retail potential in the United States, but it would never, ever occur to me to go to the supermarket to buy a book (just as, to be honest, I never think to shop for groceries at Walmart.) And yet, in Britain this is common. In fact, so great is the power of supermarkets as booksellers, that mega-chain Asda (which is owned by Walmart) were able to get former UK children's laureate Jacqueline Wilson to edit her book, My Sister Jodie, specifically for sale in their markets. Clearly, the power of one-stop shopping in the UK has led to what seems an unlikely partnership between produce and film production, but one which has proven successful and will no doubt be imitated if Tesco proves triumphant.

6 comments:

unfinishedperson said...

Who would've thunk it? :) Certainly not I. Glad our roving librarian is on the beat.

Kara Schaff Dean said...

I have to confess, I find the supermarkets in Britain somewhat exotic whenever I am back there, while I tend to recoil in horror at the boxed all-purpose shops here. I guess it's just location, location, location. But clearly, at least in the UK, supermarkets as booksellers is a marketing formula that works. And I think you can point to Borders as a casualty of this system. They found they couldn't compete and have died a sad death there (soon to be followed up here, perhaps?)

Playing by the book said...

Please please please don't buy your books in Tescos when you're next over here! With books, just as in the grocery market they are proving such a dominant market force that independent shops are going out of business (despite stories such as this one: http://tiny.cc/cpsNv (scroll down to see the story I'm referring to). I know shopping abroad is always exciting for me too (even Walmart was pretty exciting the last time I was in the US - it was all so "alien") but shopping in Tescos is soul destroying...

Kara Schaff Dean said...

Have no fear, PBTB, I will keep my Tesco purchasing limited to wine gums :)I always prefered Sainsburys, anyways ;)

But I do find the phenomenon of "supermarkets as a book selling power" curious. I'm not sure how it came about in the UK, but it is clearly here to stay. Other than Waterstones and W.H. Smiths, what booktore chains are left in the UK? (It's been ten years since I've lived there, so I am working mainly from memory.) It seems that independent booksellers in the UK have an even tougher battle than they do here, precisely because of the emeregence of supermarkets as booksellers. And how does a place like Tesco or Asda influence buying habits, if they are the main source of reading material for, shall we say, non-discerning readers?

jaydubblah said...

Tesco only seem to sell popular books, the latest cookery trend, latest biography of non-event so called celebrities etc but I think that small retail shops have had a harder time competing with amazon. The real problem started when the law that stopped people selling books for less than the cover price was abolished here (UK) Small retailers could not afford to compete because the wholesale price was governed by the number of copies you bought from the wholesaler. Not sure how these things work in the US but the other thing is problems and cost of parking in towns so it's quicker and cheaper to go to the supermarket and if you can get everything you need there many people think that is better. I guess that most people who buy a book in Tesco buy on impulse and wouldn't go looking for a book shop anyway

Kara Schaff Dean said...

Those are all great points about how incidental factors can add up and influence buying decisions. I was still living in England during the Harry Potter years (now an official era!) and I remember the arguments against allowing supermarkets to sell their copies at less than the cover prices. A decade later, we can see some of the results of that argument. Any Brit readers--let me know if you watch a Tesco film production, and tell me if its any good!

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