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Is the Closure of Coles Billings Bridge Plaza a Sign of Corporate Indigo's Disconnect?

Mark this day on your calendar.

On Saturday, March 9th, 2024, Coles Billings Bridge Plaza, will permanently be closing their doors.

Sad day indeed.

I became aware of this closure through a Reddit post, and then on CTV News.

Of all the 'big-box bookstores' across Ottawa - and let's be honest here, the only big-box-bookstores left in Ottawa are Indigos - this location, bar none, was by far and away the most supportive of local literary talents.

I have had my books, and my authors' books, at this location since our inception. That's the longest 30-day consignment ever: 10 years.

The one telling difference the Coles brand held that Indigo didn't was that they maintained their small bookshop feel and didn't succumb to being mostly a knick-knack retail store that happened to sell books on the side.

The path forward for Indigo was closely related to the charm, smaller floorspace, and a bookstore actually selling books, that Coles held onto. And most importantly, supporting the industry's grassroots level.

The loss of this location's staff and manager will be catastrophic. Not just for the staff themselves, not just for Ottawa's literary scene, but also for corporate Indigo. The local literary community will recover, the slack will be picked up by other local independent bookstores; life will go on. But I can't say the same for corporate Indigo. It's a microcosm of what the future holds for this corporation.

I have gotten myself in trouble before for saying this on live radio, but I can no longer behave and bite my tongue. This is not aimed at Coles' or Indigo's wonderful and supportive staff or individual locations. This is aimed directly at corporate Indigo. Yes, I'm looking at you:

If you do not support the grassroots level of any industry - and in this case that grassroots level are new, local, and up-and-coming writers, poets, and authors - your corporate philosophy is that of a pirate's: Take all you can; give nothing back. You are shortsighted and undermining yourself and your business. Period. Full stop.

Doubling down and increasing your inventory and floor-space of knick-knacks will not save you. Reducing your store locations and increasing your floorspace (larger stores) will not save you. When you dam the river that feeds your reservoir, your days are numbered.

Indigo has come off the rails, and I don't, unfortunately, see it getting any better in the near future. It will need to get worse before it has any chance of getting better, well, at least for Indigo. I don't think this forecast applies for independent bookshops; in fact, possibly just the opposite. Too little too late; Horror vacui - nature abhors a vacuum, and this void, I have no doubt, will be all too quickly filled by the returning and up-and-coming independent bookshops.

Book-lovers want intimate. Book-lovers want to be known by their shops' staff, managers, and owners. Book-lovers are done with the big-box-bookstore model.

And one final message to corporate Indigo:

For your hostile takeovers in years past, for you forcing the plethora and cornucopia of independent bookstore out of business, for blacklisting individual authors who had an opinion contrary to yours, for your direction of making it difficult for the new and up-and-coming writers, poets, and authors, to axing your dedicated front-end workers who drive your company, and contribute, and make the different in their region's local literary landscape...


It is the only civilized and pejorative word I can allow myself to use publicly.


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