The “Operations & Finances: Small Acts for Financial Gain” education session at the seventh annual Children’s Institute in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, taught booksellers about some of the little things that can be done every single day to boost a bookstore’s bottom line.
The Thursday, June 27, session featured bookstore panelists who have effectively pinched a penny here and saved a penny there speaking about how to identify small costs that add up; where to look for savings; and small actions booksellers can take to impact overall savings and sales.
The panelists included Adlai Yeomans, co-owner of White Whale Bookstore in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania; Katie Orphan, manager of The Last Bookstore in Los Angeles, California; Ariana Paliobagus, owner of Country Bookshelf in Bozeman, Montana; and Suzanna Hermans, co-owner of Oblong Books & Music in Millerton, New York.
First, panelists discussed tips for cutting down spending in-store and other store hacks.
Keep an Eye on Expenses
- Phone and internet bill (every few years call up the phone company and make sure you’re getting the best deal)
- Get an itemized point-of-sale bill (are you paying for services you don’t use?)
- Spending on frequently used items
- Source office supply products (you may find it cheaper through another company)
The Side(line) Hustle
- Sidelines are good because you can control the price
- Be aware of discounts and bargain sales
- Take advantage of free freight, show sales, and other discounts
- Ask for free samples of sidelines
- Bring in some high margin sidelines (unlike books, if you run out you can always wait for bargain sales to restock)
Next, panelists discussed how to avoid unnecessary time-wasting activities while operating your store.
- Plan ahead (every bit of time you take planning saves a proportionate amount of time later)
- Make appointments with yourself (if you miss the appointment, reschedule it on your calendar)
- Try not to reinvent the wheel
- Take advantage of ABA education (review the Wi14 session How to be a Highly Effective Bookseller, Manager, or Buyer for helpful tips)
- Join a bookseller discussion group
- Don’t be afraid to ask questions
- A little planning and learning on the backend will save time on the frontend
After that, booksellers discussed whether and when advertising is worth paying for.
Using the Media
- Most of the time it doesn’t pay to shell out money for ads
- Try to get features in local media (earned media)
- Partner with local tourism groups to suggest your store as a stop
- Try cross-promoting with partnered organizations
- Social media marketing (sometimes a Facebook boost is worth paying for)
- If you have a relationship with a local newspaper, see if you can get a discounted ad
Then, booksellers discussed how to make the most of publisher relationships as well as other publisher tips and tricks.
Ask Publishers About...
- Book fair accounts
- Indie partner programs to get better terms
- Call tags for larger scale off-site events (always before, never after)
- Ask for drop shipping for off-site events
- Special event discounts (certain publishers have special deals for events if the book is the ticket. Only order as many as you are certain to come.)
- B2B sales can get better discounts
- Other available promotions
Finally, booksellers discussed expenses that are actually worth not cutting corners for.
Things That Are Worth Investing In
- Price gun
- Book-based POS system (more expensive than general POS systems but better for inventory management and reorders)