Guess it depends on where you live.
The B&N and Borders where I live opened (with major media splashes) as stand alone stores.
We were all amazed by the size, range, and depth of their offerings. Prior to their arrival, bookstores in our area were mostly small, funky, very eclectic operations that were usually jammed into lofts or converted Victorian houses. Most were as much a labor of love as they were businesses.
Both the big stores offered aggressive discounts to their customers when they first opened. In-store discounts ranged from 10% to 30% off cover depending on what you bought. And most times, your purchase would "earn" you a register coupon worth $5 or an additional discount off on your next purchase. Didn't take long before the public voted with its wallet.
There was also the issue of store hours. Both big stores operated on an extended schedule. But Barnes & Noble took the cake on that one. For the first three years in operation, our B&N opened at 9:00am and closed at 11:00pm, Monday thru Saturday. On Sundays it was 10:00am to 10:00pm.
And in case you were wondering, B&N got busy between 9:00 and 11:00pm on many nights. People would be getting off the NYC train, or leaving a restaurant or a movie, and decide to stop in and get something to read on the way home. It was only a short while before a community of late night book buying "regulars" formed. And these regulars were most of its "heavy buyers" according to the store manager. (I know this because I asked her.)
Low prices, big selection, long store hours - combined with a polite and helpful staff (that understood standard English) - it was an absolutely killer marketing strategy.
The end result is that there are no longer any indy bookstores around where I live. And there are virtually no independent booksellers (i.e people that sell used on an informal basis out of their garage or barn) either.
Now, 20 years later, it looks like the online booksellers are about to run this same play on the "Big B Bookstores."
Guess it's true: what comes 'round goes 'round.