ABA Partners With Above the Treeline

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This week, the American Booksellers Association announced a new partnership with Above the Treeline, LLC, which provides an online software product designed to help bookstores improve finances by optimizing inventory selection. Through this partnership, all ABA member bookstores that subscribe to Above the Treeline beginning January 1, 2006, will have their set-up fee (around $1,500 on average) waived. Above the Treeline will cover 50 percent of the fee, and ABA will cover the other half of set-up costs for members. In addition, all current and future ABA member bookstores that subscribe to Above the Treeline (ATL) will receive up to a 10 percent discount off the standard monthly subscription fees (between $50 and $350 based on store size).

By connecting to a bookseller's POS system via the Internet, Above the Treeline creates an online information-sharing network, while maintaining individual retailer anonymity. Booksellers can analyze their own near real-time sales and inventory information, as well as information from all subscriber stores through highly visual charts and graphs, making it much simpler to make informed stocking decisions quickly. Above the Treeline is currently in use at over 75 ABA member bookstores, which have combined annual revenues of over $220 million. Above the Treeline does not disclose an individual store's information to any third party without the express consent of the store.

"Since Above the Treeline was introduced several years ago, we have heard glowing reports from users about how valuable and instructive a product it is," said ABA CEO Avin Mark Domnitz. "Now ABA is pleased to able to make it more widely available to our bookstore members.

"Under the number-one goal of ABA's Strategic Plan, we're directed to find ways to provide booksellers with access to the education, information, and business services they need to succeed in a changing world. By helping booksellers make more informed ordering decisions, Above the Treeline does just that."

ATL founder John Rubin noted, "This partnership with ABA is a natural fit.... There are a lot of different ways that an independent bookseller can benefit from Above the Treeline, and I am excited about working with ABA to help more retailers get involved."

Here is a look at some of the key benefits that Above the Treeline offers booksellers:

Treeline Top Sellers. This provides booksellers with the ability to quickly see what bestselling titles they may be missing from their inventory. A user can access the software to see the top selling titles across all subscribing independent bookstores. The list not only shows the top selling titles, but it also matches the list directly with the subscriber's own inventory, telling the bookseller which of those titles are currently in stock, have at one time been in stock, or have never been in stock. Results can be filtered by book category, publisher, region, etc.

Store Performance. Using the Store Performance function, a bookseller can compare his or her store's data to other anonymous stores and gauge their strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities for change. Also, a subscriber can review the store's performance over time.

Title Lists. Subscribers can view title lists submitted by suppliers or create their own. Typical supplier title lists include hot-selling titles, seasonal recommendations, promotions, etc. Retailers can view their inventory in a multicolored pie chart showing the titles on an individual list that are either in stock, on order, out-of-stock, or have never been in stock.

Category Comparisons. Using category comparisons, a subscriber can evaluate a category's performance over time and compare it to other stores. This allows the bookseller to drill down and review sales and inventory trends to see how efficient their inventory is.

E-mail Notifications. Above the Treeline can be accessed from any Internet-connected computer. In addition, much of the information mentioned above can be accessed through customizable e-mail reports that can be sent to stores daily, weekly, or monthly. As an example, a bookstore's buyer could choose to receive an e-mail each week that lists the top-selling cookbook titles from across the participating stores that are out-of-stock at the bookstore or that it has never carried.

Publisher Partnership Program. Through ATL, retailers can communicate more efficiently and effectively with publisher sales reps. Booksellers can provide participating ATL publishers with limited access to the store's inventory data to allow participating publisher reps to see which of their company's titles the store has in stock. This allows the rep to "fill in the gaps," to make more educated title recommendations, and to communicate these recommendations online if desired. Retailers can choose to participate in ATL's publisher program with all, some, or none of ATL's current publisher/supplier customers including: Baker/Bethany, Fulcrum Publishers, Grove Atlantic, HarperCollins, Houghton Mifflin, John Wiley, Multnomah, Penguin, Random House, Simon & Schuster, Thomas Nelson, Workman, W.W. Norton, and Zondervan.

Booksellers interested in learning more about Above the Treeline should note that Rubin will be appearing at ABA's first annual Winter Institute in January in Long Beach, California. In addition, demonstrations of Above the Treeline will be provided at ABA's regional programs or a demonstration can be arranged by contacting Above the Treeline at [email protected].