Last month I hosted a small group of VABA members who also have a storefront with regular hours. As opposed to just selling inventory online from home. We all have books we sell online but we are dedicated to maintaining our stores.
Interesting sharing our stories: how we got into the business, what brought us to our current store location, pitfalls of having a storefront as well as the joys and of course, dealing with customers. The good, the bad and the funny. I didn’t take many notes like I wanted to because I was so caught up listening. I did take down a title of a book one used bookstore owner wants to write: “How to Make a Small Fortune in the Book Business.” We laughed out loud. Yea…um…it’s a joke. We are only wealthy in and through our inventory. We only make money when the books sell. So…making a small fortune…it can be done but the books that could make us a fortune don’t sell very often. All around our biggest expense is our rent. And rent is what can break owners to close their storefront. We are pretty dedicated to hold out.
The really good thing for me was that I discovered I am running my store on par with those who have had a storefront for many, many years. I was able to walk away from the meeting with the confirmation that I’m doing okay with pricing and quality of books. I’m feeling the quality is increasing.
It was a great meeting and I was honored to host the first of what I hope to be many more. I should have taken a photo of the group but like I mentioned earlier I really got caught up in our conversations, wanting to be a great hostess, and also was a tad nervous because I look up to them all and I want to be accepted as a used bookstore lady.
Here are some additonal bulleted notes that I did manage to jot down:
- Occasionally run a zip code survey. If anything, great to see where customers come from – visitors to the area. (shades of my old profession)
- Get off my Amazon boycott and start listing my online inventory through the website. Unfortunately that’s where most people go when looking for a book. Most online sales are generated there. (rats!)
- Radio! A great story was told by one bookstore owner of running an ad for some time and then removing it because no one ever mentioned it. Then several years after it had been dropped, people started coming into the store singing the ad jingle. Needless to say, he started the radio ad up again. So now I’ve got to come up with a cool jingle.
- Store owners can have a passion for collecting books but keep it out of the store. In other words, don’t bring anything into the store you won’t sell. Once it comes into the store it has to be for sale. I have a good story on that: I wanted to buy a book in a used bookstore but the owner really didn’t want to sell it. He started quizzing me to see if I was worthy to purchase it. Yea, I walked out and went online to make the purchase. It was before I bought this store. Customers don’t like to be tested.
- Other misc notes: jacket protectors, free box near the door, better signage, develop a VT brick & mortar used bookstore (car) trail.