Online shopping and digital books (eBooks) have changed the way people buy and use books. Instead of heading out to a local bookstore, people can simply log on their computers and buy what they want. Even on their mobile phones, book purchases are possible and a very common feat. Similar to internet purchases, digital books are also gaining in popularity. Their ease in use and portability make them very ideal for avid book readers. Their versatility means that they can be paired with a laptop, mobile phone, or an eBook reader.
With all the latest trends, it would seem that the traditional bookstore is in danger. However, there are a lot of book aficionados that prefer having physical volumes of their favorite books and even go hunting for first edition books. Whether customers buy them for collection purposes or the appeal of physical books, bookstores still have a fighting chance in the competitive market. If you’re planning to open an independent bookstore or already managing one, here are some things you must know.
Location is Important
Choose a “prime spot” or a place with plenty of foot traffic. Since this is also a business, you will want a location that naturally draws customers. Even if they just happen to glance at your store window, those few seconds make or break the sale. On the other hand, a very desirable and advantageous location will come with a hefty price tag. Anticipate this part and prepare your capital or be prepared to choose a smaller size for your store.
Use Your Space Wisely
Maximizing your floor space takes a bit of creative thinking. An example of this is creating book shelves from the floor to the ceiling to increase your inventory space. With careful planning, you can strategically place best-selling books in easy-to-reach spaces while you put the rare books on top. Make sure though that they are properly categorized so that your customers won’t have a hard time looking for them.
A lot of small bookstores make the mistake of just cramming as much book as they can without taking time to organize them. Instead of “maximizing” your stocks, it tends to confuse customers and eventually turn them off. When they can’t even find a simple book title they’re looking for or find the shelf for a specific genre, there’s no point in browsing your selection no matter how wide it is.
Accommodate Your Hours
People shopping for books generally take a long time browsing, comparing, and selecting before they decide on one. This goes for any genre out there and for all ages. This is why your customers would prefer to go book shopping at their convenient time. As a bookstore, organize your store hours to be of service when customers are available. This means opening on holidays, and extending your store hours until late nights.
Hire Capable Staff
Aside from their retail duties, bookstore staffs are also tasked with being knowledgeable regarding books of all genres and authors. Customers have a tendency to ask staff for recommendations or if your store has a specific book series. They may even be asked to give their personal review or receive inquiries about a specific author. Having competent staff that knows their stuff with books can increase your sale chances and also establish your authority in the market.
Included in hiring a capable staff is to provide sufficient training. They may know their way around books, but what about shop tasks? Training them will ensure that they won’t make many mistakes in the future and they will feel that you value them.
Stock up on Various Genres
Specializing your book genre is a very bad idea. Not only will you lose potential customers, it’s very hard to find a customer base for each book classification out there. It takes a lot of effort and dedication to make recommendation lists or book reviews every month, but it’s will set you apart from the competition. In an indirect way it’s also advertising your books and generating sales.
Purchase books in bulk from reliable vendors. These book vendors provide huge discounts if you buy volumes and they have a lot of titles or genres for you to choose from. You can find lots of potential business partners in trade fairs dedicated to bookstores and book sellers.
Manage Inventory Properly
Each book title you buy is a specific “product” which needs to be analyzed. In terms of sales, profitability, and other factors, books need to be studied individually. Again, this takes a lot of work, but this is crucial to ensure that your bookstore has the proper appeal and for you to order the proper stocks. Ordering a lot of books that do not or will not sell means you are just wasting money.
A good way to get people to know about your bookstore is to hold relevant events. These may be book signing events, poetry reading, or even having the local book club hold their meetings there. Consider these as a form of inexpensive advertising.
Don’t focus too much on advertising expenses. Remember that you’re still starting small and your center of attention should be your books and service. If you establish your identity at these points, advertising through word of mouth comes naturally and you won’t have to think too much about commercials in the future. A lot of times, bookstores try to open strong and hold countless events that gather just a few people. These are definitely unnecessary expenses when you’re still starting your bookstore.
Treat it Like a Business
If your bookstore is not performing up to speed, don’t be afraid to make changes. These may involve small changes like the layout or your packaging, to big decisions like book prices or staffing. After all, you’re running a business and you need to adapt to the market.
You can even create partnerships with other local businesses like coffee shops or small food shops. If your space allows it, you can rent out a small portion of your area to shops like these. It accommodates your customers’ food needs and it also gives them space to hang out while reading books.
Develop Your Website
A website is an invaluable tool to reach out to your potential customers. Even if they don’t go to your store they can search for your available titles and make orders online. Just be sure to include your store location and hours of operation. You also need to make sure that your website is easy to navigate. Not all your customers might know what an RSS feed is or they might want to have the option to share it on social media. Make the layout easy for them to find what they are looking for without being blinded by background images or turned off by your excessive advertisements.
Just because you’re an avid book lover doesn’t mean that running a bookstore business will be easy for you. It’s also a business before anything else and you should consider that. Consider profits, manage your expenses and put yourself in your customers’ shoes before you make decisions.