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Category Killers (2005)

CKThe book Category Killers: The Retail Revolution and its Impact on Consumer Culture (2005) is by Robert Spector, a “a motivational keynote speaker and consultant on world class customer service”. The book discusses how many sleepy small towns in the US have become fertile grounds for large category killer stores. It also traces the rise of category killers when Charles Lazarus founded the first Toys R Us store in Washington DC. It concludes with an aptly-titled section “The winds of change for category killers” where he describes the forces of change that are threatening companies in this retailing niche.

Category killers, as Robert explains, “have dramatically altered our buying experience, becoming the most disruptive force in retailing- and everything else that retailing touches”. But, as a student asked me, what exactly are category killers? Robert provides a good description of these group of stores in his book- These stores have a “mammoth footprint- twenty thousand square feet to more than one hundred thousand square feet” and “specialize in a distinct classification of merchandise such as toys, office supplies, home improvement- while offering everyday low prices and wide and deep inventories”. They are called “category killers” because “their goal is to dominate the category and kill the competition- whether it be mom-and-pop stores, smaller regional chains, or general merchandise stores that can not compete on price and/or selection.”    

The book is certainly interesting to read! Almost everyone of us has shopped at one of the category killer stores at one point or another, but never really thought much about them. Robert’s writing style is entertaining and gentle as he takes the reader through a journey of this part of the retail industry. However, at some places I didn’t get why he said what he said. Consider the chapter title: “Paper clips in Portugal”. I don’t think the chapter ever explained the relevance of this title. But these are minor irritants in what is otherwise a book worth-reading.

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